By Ajay Banerjee in New Delhi, The Tribune; October 20, 2019
IN March 1994, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s Cabinet allowed private players to run scheduled airlines, altering the dynamics of the civil aviation sector. Ticket prices are now affordable, multiple options exist, while the number of flights between any destination has increased. The industry has seen much churning, including the present one with the government offloading its stakes in the continually loss-making Air India.
Twenty-five years later, the Narendra Modi government has taken the first step to gradually open up the Railways to private participation in the passenger segment. Private players have already been allowed in freight movement for more than a decade. Riding on the promise of privatisation of the passenger segment, the stock of the Indian Railway Catering and Travel Corporation (IRCTC) made a historic opening on the BSE Sensex on October 14. From its issue price of Rs 320, the stock zoomed to Rs 778 when the week closed on Friday, October 18. The government offloaded 12.5 per cent of its stake in IRCTC, a subsidiary of the Railways. The IRCTC’s main revenue is from the Rs 30 charge levied on booking e-tickets. With lakhs of e-tickets booked each day, profits run into crores of rupees.