Donning the mantle of a management guru, Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad on Monday lectured the students of elite Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad on how the Railways under his stewardship transformed from a chronically loss-making unit to a profitable venture within a short span.
Often derided for his 'mismanagement' of Bihar affairs during a 15-year rule by his party, Lalu, a quintessentially rustic politician credited with making the railways turnaround through a highly common sense approach, dwelt at length on the initiatives taken by the railways.
During the three-hour lecture, Lalu also shared with the business school students his vision on world-class stations, clean malls and good amenities for passengers.
Asked by reporters later what he discussed with the students, he said he explained how the railways was able to earn more without raising fares and even by reducing freight.
Lalu said the railways earned Rs 13,500 crore (Rs 135 billion) by March this year and this figure is expected to touch Rs 20,000-crore (Rs 200 billion) mark by 2006-7 and promised to sustain the turn-around.
"We will sustain and earn even more in the days to come," he said.
Scoffing at people lampooning him when he tried to change the railways, Lalu said that "instead of appreciating the good initiatives taken by us, there have been people who have been making fun of us. They have been making unfair comments like 'Lalu rail ko chopat kar dega' (Lalu will mess up the Railways). But we have been able to prove them wrong."
Earlier Lalu, accompanied by his wife Rabri Devi, met IIM-A Director Bakul Dholakia.
Recently, a study conducted by senior IIM-A professor G Raghuram on the turnaround of Railways was included in the curriculum for Post-Graduate Programme in Management for Executives.
The study includes a look at whether the "turnaround is actually real or an eyewash."
While talking about making the Indian railways world-class, Lalu, however, ruled out having high speed trains as in Japan saying their fares are 'too high' and are risky projects.
Regarding security of passengers in trains, Lalu said CCTVs, dog squad and metal detectors would be introduced to make train travelling much safer and the railways was considering to bar relatives of passengers from entering rail stations.
The lecture of the railway minister at the IIMA was a closed door session where around 90 students and faculty members were present.
His lecture was well appreciated by the students who enjoyed his inimitable style of speaking while making a point about the success of the railways.
Briefing the media after the lecture, the railway minister said 7,500 outlets would be opened in railway stations across the country to help local farmers sell their produce there.
Replying to more questions posed by the media regarding the poor progress of his home state Bihar where his party had been in power for 15 years, Lalu said: "Bihar is a state that has been completly neglected since Independence. It has not received any substantial investment in any sector and this is the reason that the state has not developed."
To a remark by media quoting former railway minister Nitish Kumar who claimed that the profit of the railways was due to the reforms he (Nitish) had initiated Lalu gave figures that income during Nitish Kumar's tenure was Rs 2,350 crore (Rs 23.50 billion) (2000-2001), while now it had gone up to 13,612 crore (Rs 136.12 billion) in 2005-2006.
"Nitish Kumar had defaulted in paying dividends to the Centre worth Rs 1,823 crore (Rs 182.3 billion). Then, how can he claim that his steps had made the railway turn around?" Lalu said.