Lalu Prasad Yadav;
But Mr Yadav is a wily and disarming politician and has confounded his critics by becoming one of the country's most successful railway ministers. And he has not forgotten his cows. “If you don't milk your cow fully it falls sick, and if the cow falls sick the farmer goes sick,” he says to explain his solutions to the problems of the world's second largest railway network. With more than 1.4m employees and 63,000km (40,000 miles) of track, the railways still help bind India together, but they have suffered from deteriorating finances and lack the funds for future investment.
Rather than raise fares as he was urged to do by various reports and pundits, Mr Yadav has opted for volume-boosting and cost-cutting measures that have made diehard officials in the stuffy Railways Board shudder. He increased load limits for the system's 220,000 freight wagons by 11%, legalising something that was already happening. He has boosted the railways' earnings by 72 billion rupees ($1.6 billion) in the current year. Of this, 60 billion rupees came from speeding up turn-round times. These measures have added some 24% to freight revenues—and freight provides 70% of the railways' earnings.