Guru Lalu mesmerises Harvard students
New Delhi, December 27
The minister held the attention of the Harvard and Wharton, America’s Ivy League school, students for more than an hour today as he explained the “turnaround success story” of the Indian Railways in heavily accented Bhojpuri Hindi interspread with one-liners in English.
The business administration classroom was set up in the National Rail Museum's spaciouss auditorium and Mr Lalu Prasad, dressed in traditional kurta pyajama and a grey pullover, had the group of students --100 from Harvard and 37 from Wharton--.and their professors captivated.
Jones told The Tribune that the lecture was a learning experience. “How he transformed the loss-making organisation into a profitable one without retrenchment and privatisation... I might come back to do my internship to study the success in detail, as it could be replicated in other sectors as well,” he said.
Yastten, a Japanese student from Wharton, said he was tremendously impressed by Lalu Prasad whose turnaround of the Railways was ''real and not fake.''
He liked the minister for his wit , charm, honesty and dedication.''Some years ago, the Japanese Railways had also been incurring massive losses, but it made a turnaround after being privatised, but he has done it without corporatising the railways,'' Yastten added.
International media that had gathered to witness the lecture was deprived of an opportunity to witness the interaction. The students were mostly tightlipped, following instructions, as if they were guarding a corporate secret.
Mr Lalu Prasad, author of an incredible success story of turning around the Indian Railways, said it was done without using the cold logic of a modern-day corporate entity --no retrenchment and no hikes in fare and freight charges.
The minister showed his astute understanding of market reality and the finer nuances of the functioning and finances of the Railways frequently using expressions like 'internal resources,' 'operating ratio,' and 'fund balances.'
Ironically, in the US, the bastion of capitalism, the Railways run at a loss and in Europe it survives basically on subsidies.
"The Railways, which was a few years back not in a position to pay dividends to the government, now boasts of a cash surplus of more than Rs 13,000 crore in a short span of 30 months. This would take a quantum leap to Rs 20,000 crore by the end of current fiscal," he said.
He informed the students: "Over the last 30 months, freight volumes have grown by 8-10 per cent and similarly growth in passenger volumes has also been doubled.
He also spelt out his "vision" for the Railways by promising dedicated freight corridors and world-class stations. "We will set up 75,000 krishi (farmers) outlets at railway stations."This is just the beginning. Asli cinema to baaki hai (the real movie is yet to come)," beamed Mr Lalu Prasad , who kept referring to the Railways as the lifeline of the country.
When a Pakistani student asked him whether he was keen to become the Prime Minister of India, the witty politician said: ''I have kept the issue pending.''
Not to be undone by the rather embarrassing query about his home state where he was Chief Minister for 15 years, Mr Lalu Prasad said: ''Bihar has been a victim of Naxal menace and poor law and order. Infrastructure is bad and the per capita income rock bottom.''
He said Bihar was a special case and needed special treatment.
Asked whether Indian Railways would continue to sustain its momentum when he was no more the minister, he said he had given a ''steel frame'' to the Railways and irrespective of the change in the minister or the government, the growth story would continue.
Mr Lalu Prasad may visit the US next year as he has invitation from eight Ivy league colleges and universities.