Budget 2020: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman laid down the vision of modernising India in her maiden budget speech last year.
She envisioned building a robust $5 trillion economy by strengthening all mediums of transport sustainably.
This is the most important consideration to where new India takes an uncompromising stand on the environment in the name of development. This should be the guiding philosophy for the coming years.
The mega Rs 102 lakh crore infrastructure fund announced by the government captures the right projects that need attention.
The ability to move faster within the country without jeopardising India's emission scorecard will guarantee durable growth. Speeding up the execution of existing projects and starting new ones will give a much-needed impetus to propel the economic growth engine.
Indian Railways and its modernisation will play a key role in this effort. The government will now focus on upgrading infrastructure, assets, systems, facilities and economics.
FULL COVERAGE:Union Budget 2020
It will leverage technology and sustainable approach to change how the national transporter continues its way into the future.
Infrastructure includes locomotives, coaches, rail lines and buildings like stations, offices etc. With the recent announcement that the railways will be electrified 100 per cent by 2024, the sector has become more attractive from the business' point of view.
Along with coaches, the entire railway network will be upgraded that includes the application of emerging technologies to track real-time geo-location of trains, signalling and ticketing interface.
In order to accelerate the railways' modernisation in the current financial year 2019-20, capital expenditure for Indian Railways was pegged at Rs 1,601 crore
It is 20% higher than the preceding year while the railways would need an investment of Rs 50,000 crore between 2018-2030 for upgrading its infrastructure, according to estimates by the finance ministry.
In Budget 2020, the finance minister can unleash a new wave of reforms for the new decade by strengthening and streamlining policies that promote collaboration to achieve transformation at scale.
We expect the government to address larger facets in the Budget 2020 such as ease of doing business where there are several challenges for manufacturing as well as dealing with project execution.
To boost railway manufacturing, the government should consider the long-standing demand of the industry for standardisation of rolling stock.
It can speed up deliveries and enhance resource optimisation. It will lead to more cost-effective solutions and faster project commissioning. Investments made for "Make in India" to boost localisation should be promoted more.
Boosting infra spends will also create millions of jobs, uplift the real estate market and drive down transportation costs besides widening its options.
The parallel effect of infra spending will be on supply chains strengthened by 'Made in India' capabilities. This will in return make Indian products compete price-wise, while the technological collaboration of Indian and foreign companies will boost quality.
The government's long-term commitment to modernisation and sustainability has been very reassuring. Policy stability and determination to support India-first companies are a plus.
Its slew of measures like private trains, using GPS to track the real-time location of trains, tracking wear and tear of rail assets with advanced IT solutions are in the right direction.
Indian Railways is also making steady steps towards exploring cheaper and efficient energy sources to rationalise its dependence on non-renewable energy resources. Its interest in testing hydrogen-powered engines shows it is ready to embrace new ideas and emerging technologies.
The other positive move has been in streamlining GST. It has been highly appreciated by global organisations, as it promotes manufacturing, localisation and fair play.
Additionally, the decision to operate private trains was another step that Indian Railways took to improve multiple aspects like finance, boost participation of private companies and create more avenues for technological collaboration.
With unprecedented reforms, developments and technological advancement, we see 2020 as a turning point for the Indian Railways.
(The author is MD - India & South Asia, Alstom India)