Shagun Mehrotra

Railways

My dissertation shows how the Indian Railways were transformed, between 2005–2008, counter intuitively, without privatization, retrenchment, or fare-hikes for poor passengers, under the leadership of a populist politician, the then Minister of Railways. I explain how the railway system was rescued from near bankruptcy in 2001 to realize US $6 billion annual surplus in 2008, while retaining state ownership, unlike British Railways that followed conventional policy prescriptions of unbundling and privatizing.  

Conflicting and competing interests groups were navigated to craft a space for reform. An essential element of this complex strategy was to leverage existing assets by operating faster, longer, and heavier trains. Thus, this research explores an important theoretical as well as a practical concern in public sector planning and economics about how public enterprises can improve infrastructure services without burdening the poor.

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