Restructuring of Railway Board on corporate line

:: M.Y.Siddiqui ::

In fact, there was a well chiseled plan to convert entire railways as Indian Railways Corporation Ltd. But the Government developed cold feet in the last minutes in view of growing public ire against privatization and dropped the proposal for now. Anyway, privatization will push the costs of rail services making Indian Railways prohibitive for general public of whom about 80 crores (800 million) people are poor and live on day to day earnings and that also in our democratic system of governance where people elect the government of transient majority and for that the people are sovereign masters of the elected government.

Union Ministry of Railways has issued orders restructuring Railway Board on corporate lines (claimed by the Ministry on functional lines) with effect from September 8, 2020. Restructuring has been effected to deal resolutely with the ongoing privatization of Indian Railways. Accordingly, Chairman Railway Board (CRB) and ex-officio Principal Secretary to the Government of India has been redesignated as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with a trimmed five-member Board. Existing designation of CRB will continue but for all practical purposes he/she will be known as CEO, Indian Railways. Posts of two members, Member Electricals (ME) and Member Staff have been abolished and their work profile interpolated with two redesignated Members, Member/Infrastructure and Member/Traction and Rolling Stock. The post of Member Staff, after abolition, has been downgraded to Director General (Human Resource).

Five members will comprise CEO-cum-Chairman Railway Board, Member (Infrastructure) M/Infra, Member (Traction & Rolling Stock), M/TR, Member (Operations & Business Development) M/O&BD, and Member (Finance), MF. While Member (Operations and Business Development) has a changed nomenclature from earlier Member Traffic, there is no change, whatsoever, in its original areas of work. Similar is the case with the Member (Finance) redesignated from earlier Financial Commissioner (FC) with no change in areas of functioning. With the restructured Railway Board, relevant provisions in Board’s Memorandum of Procedure, Codes and Manual have been modified to meet the new system of its overall functioning.

While CEO will exercise overall direction, superintendence and control over the Board, some specific assignments have been given to him as his direct responsibility. They are: Secretary/Railway Board, Director General/Railway Protection Force, Principal Executive Director/Vigilance, Additional Member/Planning, Principal Executive Director/Infrastructure, Director General/Safety, Principal Executive Director/Safety. Besides, Director General/Human Resource, Additional Member/Staff, Principal Executive Director/Training, Legal Adviser, Director General/Railways Health Services, Principal Executive Director/Railways Health Services will report to CEO, who will be answerable to the Government on behalf of Indian Railways.

Member/Infrastructure will handle Works, Civil Engineering, Bridges, Signaling & Telecom, Land & Amenities, Station Development, Railway Electrification. Member/Traction & Rolling Stock, will oversee Production Units, Mechanical Workshops, Coaches, Locomotives, Train sets, Environment & House Keeping, Electrical Maintenance of Coaching Stock, Traction Distribution Power Supply, Renewable Energy and Material Management (Inventory). Member/Operations & Business Development will execute Traffic Transportation, Coaching, Tourism, Catering, Commercial, Non-Fare Revenue, Marketing, Business Development and Information Technology. Member Finance will deal with Accounts, Finance, Budget, Revenue, Statistics, Economy & Economic Unit.

Restructuring of the Railway Board follows recommendations of various Commissions/Committees on railway reforms to bring changes in tune with the market economy and the government’s objectives of accelerating all round privatization of Indian Railways, the process for which has already been set in motion with privatization of train services on remunerative key routs on the anvil and futuristic privatization of freight trains. Other privatization of Railways includes Railway Production Units, Railways Public Sector Undertakings, station developments under Public-Private-Participation (PPP) model, monetization of unutilized surplus railway lands within the frame of futuristic requirements of railways and some sundry segments.

In fact, there was a well chiseled plan to convert entire railways as Indian Railways Corporation Ltd. But the Government developed cold feet in the last minutes in view of growing public ire against privatization and dropped the proposal for now. Anyway, privatization will push the costs of rail services making Indian Railways prohibitive for general public of whom about 80 crores (800 million) people are poor and live on day to day earnings and that also in our democratic system of governance where people elect the government of transient majority and for that the people are sovereign masters of the elected government.

Present Chairman Railway Board, Vinod Kumar Yadav, currently on yearlong extension, is the first CEO of Indian Railways. He has been made points man for privatization of Railways. His position is akin to a dead man kept alive clinically (retired person on extension) to perform all dirty jobs of privatization like that of the CEO of NITI Ayog, a retired IAS officer. As is the situation, a serving CEO will find it difficult to do dirty jobs of privatization with various hiccups therein. Nevertheless, Railways being highly capital intensive entity, private sector will not find it profitable as there is long gestation period between investments and fructification of that. Sole motive of private businesses is only profit and profiteering. There are other operational, security, law and order related problems and logistic impediments, which cannot be tackled by private investors. Given such constraints, people are exuding confidence that much hyped privatization of Indian Railways may not take off finally!

About the Author

M Y Siddiqui

Mr M Y Siddiqui is the former Director (PR&S) at Government of India, as Spokesman of various Ministries (New Delhi). After his retirement he is now a well known columnist and critic. He writes on government plans & implementation and issues of deprived segments of India.

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