Disband Railway Board and save Railways
- The Bibek Debroy Committee (BDC) is the 23rd committee formed since independence to reform Railways. Will it help the Railways turn around ?
- To know the answer you must understand why the earlier 22 committees had not had any effect and where the problem lies. The BDC has not grasped it. It has been shown only what the strongly entrenched Railway Bureaucracy (RB) wanted them to see.
The BDC failed to realise that, in the whole world, there is no organisation where all the Members of the Board, are the employees of the organisation as we have here..
- Blocking all reforms the RB has sent 22 committee reports for a toss and it is child’s play for them to send BDC recommendations to their destined place in the attics of Rail Bhavan. RB has high stakes in protecting their promotion, posting ,and covering up corruption and inefficiency. Frequent accidents, poor operating ratio, fund crunch do not deter them because it suits them to keep Railways this way with freedom from accountability.
4. Let us see the status, cited by the BDC, of the recommendations of earlier committees. .The Board could nonchalantly say that out of 106 recommendations, of the Anil Kakodkar committee on safety (2012 ) 70 were discussed and 36 yet to be discussed. including the major Recommendation, the creation of Railway Safety Authority.
Among the accepted recommendations of Rakesh Mohan Committee 16 out of 34 are yet to be implemented in full. This after 14 years.
Just like many earlier committees BDC has suggested accounting reforms. It wants a monitoring committee to implement the account reforms in 2 years. If the status quo continues, even after two years, there will be no monitoring committee.. The list of ignored recommendations is endless.
5. Sadhananda Gowda’s Railway Budget 2014 said that out of 676 projects in 30 years, only 327 were completed. After spending the original estimate Rs.1,57,883 crores, now RB needs Rs.1,82,000 crore to complete the rest. Only one out of 99 Newlines sanctioned in the last ten years has been completed. This is the performance of our RB ! If they are accountable to Parliament, how did RB get away with this inefficiency?
6.Its excessive staff cost ( more than 50% of its expenditure for over 13 lakhs regular employees, its inefficiency and its corruption are the causes for its sinking A Member of the Board, several top officials are among those under CBI enquiry. March13,2014 Times of India reports two enquiries by CBI on the Railway Board and one on the “Mini Ratna” RailTel in giving mobile phones to employees. A multi-crore scam on weighbridges is under enquiry (22nd April IE). .In Tiruchirappalli Division a Rs.300 crore freight scam is being investigated by CBI ( June 11th, The Hindu). The Bansal episode has brought out the extent of corruption at all levels. The Member, Staff was to pay Rs.10 crores to become Member- Electricals only with the hope that he could recover ten times more that money .He retained the post of GM Western Railway since it is too lucrative to give up. Every bribe-giver to the GM should have collected much more from the ranks below. The list is long.
The CAG report tabled on Feb.12, 2014 mentions the loss of Rs.4300 crores and says Rs.15,500 crores need to be recovered from iron ore companies which benefitted when the Railways charged domestic rates for non-domestic ( 3 times higher) iron ores. Was that ever recovered? God only knows, certainly not BDC. The full CAG report is damning indictment
Freedom from accountability
8. The RB enjoys unlimited freedom from accountability. The Final Report -1.12- ( not mentioned in the Interim Report) raises two questions to show lack of accountability Why do two thirds of locomotives develop problems within 6 months of periodic overhaul? Why do two thirds of goods trains leave late because the locomotives are not available? “ No answers. . Count the number of people held responsible and punished for the accidents that have taken place. No Railway head rolls, no matter how many coaches roll. The HR Khanna committee’s recommendation that DRMs, GMs and the Chairman must take responsibility for accidents was immediately rejected by this self-serving RB to ensure its own safety .BDC is silent on these things.
9. In the Peruman Train Tragedy, the Bangalore – Kanyakumari Island Express derailed on the Peruman bridge over Ashtamudi Lake, near Kollam, Kerala, I and fell into the lake, killing 105 people on July 8, 1988. The meteorology department did not report even a strong wind. and an eye witness reported only a drizzle ( Next day The Hindu report ) But our RB closed the matter spinning a theory that there was a tornado which toppled the train. The whole of India was shocked.
10. A stranger drove a train away from Chennai central till it stopped in Arakonam after killing four people on April 29th, 2009. Driver is still at large and investigation closed. This is the height of freedom from accountability.. The Standing Committee (SCR188) reports that 40% of the funds for safety was not utilised in 2013-14. All these show how RB can get away with anything. BDC seems unaware. .
11. Is RB professional in its functioning ? In 4.40, the BDC talks about, “ rigorous qualifying examinations.” “to ensure high level of competence and professionalism.” What wishful thinking ! BDC does not know how Railways promotes its workers The Master Circular 37 says when no one has obtained the minimum pass mark among the SC/ST category, the Best among the failed must be promoted. In other categories even a man who gets 60 may not get promoted because there are people who have scored above him. But among the SC/ST, workers who get 7,11,13, and 14, the worker who gets 14 must be promoted. This is Competence and professionalism, for you. The Corporate CEOs of today have around 30-40 people at CEO’s office, The Railway Board has 1073 officers besides clerks and peons to serve them.( p69 of interim Report
12. In 2007-2008, .( “Bankruptcy to Billions” by Sudhir Kumar, OSD for Lalu Prasad ) a surplus of Rs.25,000/- was created The operating ratio was 75%. . The wagon turn around was 4.7 days from the earlier 7 days All these were suppressed. BDC was shown a graph where the operating ratio came down from 96 to 93 and wagon turn around became 5.13 days from 7 days to show great improvement. RB are manipulators par excellence.
13. BDC records ( page 81 ),( there is ) “injurious competition for usurping a larger share of key general management posts for better access to power, authority etc.,” but does not say that prompted the creation of 17 zones from 9. (That many AGMs, DGMs, CCMs, GMs, that many more DRMs) DCB found out that efficiency has not increased even by one percent because of this expansion.. Citing, NTDPC-Railway report (p 62 ) BDC says,” “priorities ( are ) being set not for the organisation as a whole, but on departmental considerations” Collusive group/ personal aggrandisement is not far from departmental considerations. Tendency to nurture the tribe ( Group A services ) even at the cost of the organisation has been reported. ( p82 ) . .
14. Drastic surgical measures are required to save our Railways.
The following needs to be done to turn the Railways around.
- Replace the Railway Board with a chartered accountant, an industrialist, management expert, financial expert from outside. This Board will ensure PPP, disinvestment and sale of family lumber. Let the present members be HoDs.
- Sell lock, stock and barrel, all the hospitals, schools and Railway quarters (no takers now). and the land . 8.56 lakh crores are needed to modernise in the next five years including Rs.1.27 lakh crores for safety (p 169) and nearly Rs.4.91 lakh crores are needed to execute the already sanctioned pending projects. (p 136) FDI will not come to a employee-centric Government organisation.
- Zones must be corporatized and disinvested. Railway PSUs must also be disinvested. A golden handshake will clear the deadwood.
- Accounting reforms recommended decades ago, must be done within six months. A team of Chartered accountants must work 16 hours a day.
- .Seventh Pay Commission should be implemented only after these are fully implemented no matter how long it takes.
- Government must have the courage to fight the RB and upset the corrupt system. A glaring omission is the absence of the word “corruption” anywhere in the interim and final reports
- If you think this is too tall an order, then you will have to live with, rat-infested dirty coaches, frequent fatal accidents, unpunctual travel, poor passenger amenities , second class toilets with no mugs, , locked latrines in platforms, increased fares, hidden fares, passengers on roofs, a fattening bureaucracy, widespread corruption with all posts openly for sale, cost escalation and delay in every project and a Railways that will fast slide into bankruptcy.
Free lance journalist and a Railway commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary, Consumer Protection Council, TN 7,12th cross, Kumaran Nagar, Tiruchirappalli. 620 017