Disband Railway Board and save Railways 

  1. The Bibek Debroy Committee (BDC)   is the 23rd committee formed since independence   to reform Railways.  Will it  help the Railways turn around ?
  2. 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..

  1. 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.

Ignored  recommendations

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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.

Inefficiency  

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?

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Corruption  

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 BangaloreKanyakumari 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.  .

Unprofessional

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.

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The following needs to be done to turn the Railways around.  

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Zones must be corporatized and disinvested. Railway PSUs must also be disinvested. A golden handshake will clear the deadwood.
  1. Accounting reforms recommended  decades ago,   must be done within six months. A team of Chartered accountants must  work 16  hours a day.
  1. .Seventh Pay Commission should be implemented only after these are fully implemented no matter how long it takes.
  2. 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
  3. 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.

S.Pushpavanam 9345101216

Free lance journalist and a Railway commentator.            consumerpc@rediffmail.com

Secretary, Consumer Protection Council, TN    7,12th cross, Kumaran Nagar, Tiruchirappalli. 620 017