Ministry report may put brakes on PM Modi’s Railway University plan

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Prime minister Narendra Modi’s plan of setting up railway universities in India may get a setback as an internal report of the Railway Board has suggested that such universities were not necessary.

Earlier this year, a high-level delegation from the Ministry of Railways had visited China’s famous railway universities to familiarise themselves with the concept. Upon their return, they filed a report with the view that in India, a dedicated railway university would divert vital resources from the core operations of the Railways. Instead, the report recommended, rail research centres can be started in existing universities or railway-related subjects can be introduced in technical institutes of repute.

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As reported in The Indian Express, the railway minister Suresh Prabhu is yet to take a call on the matter. Modi had last year announced plans to set up four railway universities in the country.

The Railways had even asked EdCIL, a PSU under the ministry of Human Resource Development that specialises in setting up universities, for advice on how to go about the task.

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In its communication to the ministry, EdCIL had envisaged a rail university set up under University Grants Commission norms with an estimated student strength of more than 3,000.

China has also communicated its willingness to partly fund India’s first railway university, along with collaborating on course structure and curriculum. Most of the erstwhile rail universities in China are now multi-disciplinary institutions, railway officials said.

Within the Railway Ministry, the subject is considered sensitive because the PM himself has been seeking updates on it ever since the idea was mooted last year. One question on the mind of policy makers in Rail Bhawan is whether graduating from the university would guarantee a job in the Indian Railways.

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The ministry, it is learnt, has not received any clear signal on this. Instead of going full throttle to set up the first university, the Railways has been pushing for tie-ups with existing academic institutes.

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