As finance minister Piyush Goyal presents his first budget today, his background in accounts and law will keep him in good stead. A workaholic and the key crisis manager in the National Democratic Alliance government, Goyal has been at the forefront of all economic reforms ushered in by the Narendra Modi-led government. Be it the government’s plan to provide 24X7 reliable electricity, the clean energy push, Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) to revive debt-ridden power distribution companies, to improving India’s energy access through the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), Goyal has been the architect of these efforts.
Inducted as a minister of state with independent charge for power, coal, new and renewable energy and mines, Goyal was promoted to the rank of the cabinet minister given his body of work in the departments that he handled. A case in point being the coal block auctions conducted by the NDA government during his watch that has been termed as a successful template for the allocation of natural resources in India.
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Not surprisingly, he was given the mandate to bring order to the crisis-hit Indian Railways. Goyal, who took charge from Suresh Prabhu, is the third railway minister of the Modi government and his appointment reinforced the focus on infrastructure development, of which the railways account for a big chunk. Indian Railways is the country’s largest employer with 1.4 million personnel. Its network straddles 66,030 km of track and it ferries 23 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of freight daily. It operates 10,773 locomotives, 63,046 coaches and 245,000 wagons.
Always quick with out-of-the-box ideas, Goyal maintains a punishing schedule, often working till late in the night. Hailed as being gifted with numbers, he is an all-India second rank holder chartered accountant and second rank holder in law from Mumbai University. He served as the national treasurer for the BJP and led the party’s winning communications campaign in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014. Armed with an elephantine memory, the Mumbai university graduate has been an investment banker and has also served on the boards of State Bank of India and Bank of Baroda.
With all of India’s 597,464 census villages electrified, this could be the game-changing moment towards universal electricity access. Not surprisingly, Goyal was presented with the fourth Carnot prize on Wednesday in recognition of his work on village electrification during his tenure as India’s power minister. The award was presented by the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. He is also credited with India’s embrace of energy efficiency measures, best reflected in its programme to expand the use of LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. The government’s UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Lighting for All) scheme cut LED bulb prices to ₹38 apiece from around ₹310 in 2014. This provided India’s efforts to cut energy use a shot in the arm and helped dissipate doubts over the country’s ability to run the world’s largest energy efficiency programme.
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Over his 34-year political career, Goyal has been regarded as a man to get things done. This has positioned him as the government's principal troubleshooter. He has had a long association with the BJP with his father, the late Ved Prakash Goyal being India’s shipping minister and the BJP’s national treasurer. His mother Chandrakanta Goyal has been a three-time member of the Maharashtra state legislative assembly.
At the national carrier, Goyal has also been trying to increase revenue and reduce expenditure and accidents, increase train speeds, complete electrification and redevelop stations. He is also responsible for the high-speed train project, popularly known as the bullet train, from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.