The government on Wednesday revised its policy on leasing of railway land to bring more investments into public utilities and cargo terminals. It also decided to implement a new schooling programme with a ₹27,360 crore outlay.
The revised policy on railway land has lowered the annual rental on leased land and extended the period of leases. As a result, more investment is expected in infrastructure facilities, including cargo terminals and public utilities.
According to the changes, which were approved by the Union cabinet, the railway land lease fee has been cut to 1.5% of the market value of land per acre from the existing 6%. The lease period has been extended from the present five years to 35 years.
The changes would immediately benefit the delayed privatization of Container Corporation of India (Concor) while also facilitating the development of over 300 cargo terminals over the next five years under the PM Gati Shakti framework.
Information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur told reporters that the new policy, which will be implemented over the next 90 days, will enable integrated development of infrastructure, help build more cargo terminals and aid the extension of public utilities and services under the PPP mode.
“The policy will aid creation of 125,000 jobs while also helping Railway’s increase its share in freight transportation. It will also help reduce overall logistics costs,” the minister said.
The policy allows long-term leasing of railway land for cargo-related activities. It will also provide land at a nominal fee of ₹1 per square metre per year for setting up public services such as schools, health services under PPP mode. “Existing users of land will have the option to switch to the new regime after a competitive and transparent bidding process,” Thakur said.
The longer lease and lower rentals will also aid investors interested in picking up a strategic stake in Concor. The state-run company’s privatization was approved in 2019 where the government decided to sell 30.8% from its 54.8% stake to a strategic buyer.
However, investors cited higher lease rentals for using railway land and short lease periods as impediments.
The Cabinet also approved a new centrally sponsored scheme to create digitally-driven schools, which will also strengthen close to 14,600 existing schools. Under the scheme, ₹27,360 crore will be spent in five years upto 2026-27, out of which 66% will come from the Union government.
Union education and skill development and entrepreneurship minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters that these schools will be designed as green institutions with digital learning tools and have entrepreneurship as a focus area. More than 1.8 million students are expected to directly benefit from the scheme.
Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas will also get strengthened under the Prime Minister’s Schools for Rising India (PMSHRI) scheme, under which funds will be transferred directly from the Centre to the school. The school management will have a major say in its utilization as per their requirements.
An official statement said that these schools will create and nurture holistic and well-rounded individuals equipped with key 21st century skills and will also provide mentoring and leadership to other schools in their vicinity. The cabinet also approved a deal signed in April between India and the UK on mutual recognition of certain academic qualifications.