The Indian Railways embarked on a speed work of switching over to IT/ICT driven administration of functions and have implemented various IT Applications in the last few years viz. FOIS, PRS, UTS, Control Office Applications, Crew Management System, Integrated Coaching Management System, e-Procurement System, Real Time Train Information System, AIMS and IPAS etc. The Finance & Accounts Department in the Railways plays an Integral Role in rendering timely advise, proper maintenance of accounts in terms of earnings and expenditure and providing in time management information, reporting for decision making with proper budgeting, keeping the Accounts and compilation thereof at the end of each financial period, internal checks of all transactions, scrutiny of investment proposals and MIS Reporting.
Among many IT initiatives of Indian Railways, the Accounting Information Management System (AIMS) is one of the vital Application that not only covers the establishment, payroll, leave account, PF, pension and other vital modules but also facilitates internal checks, bill passing, cheque printing, monthly and annual account compilation, budget and financial review and forecast – thus immensely contributes for best of the breed administrative standards with benchmarked practices.
In an interview with the Editor-in-Chief of RailNews, Ms.Rohita Mishra IRAS, Sr.EDPM of NR’s Delhi Division says that today almost all the Zonal Rail systems have adopted AIMS and IPAS and the role of IT has changed completely now on IR. Ms.Rohita says that the Application has been highly customized over a period of time and will continue to further betterment. “AIMS and IPAS are set to immensely reduce the TCO due to economy in support and licencing costs,” she adds. She asserts that with the industry scale Security Server Applications running, the complete architecture is highly secure, scalable and more agile. Here are the excerpts from the interview with Ms.Rohita Mishra.
Q: Can you give a brief of IPAS Application software being extensively used by Indian Railways?
Rohita Mishra: IPAS Application software (the software for AIMS) was developed by CRIS on web based 3-tier centralized architecture using Java and Oracle. It brings a common Application to all Railways on a centralized platform so that similar processes are followed across Railways in terms of accounting practices. A key benefit of such centralization is a faster change management and integration of effort along with automation of processes. IPAS application is undergoing a continuous up-gradation to achieve better efficiency, security and safety. IPAS will provide real time access to financial transaction data across IR and will also bring financial and fiscal discipline.
Q: When did you implement the IPAS developed by CRIS, and when it was actually conceptualized?
Rohita Mishra: AIMS was conceptualized in the year 2010-11 and the modalities for implementing the project were initiated in the year 2011. Delhi division pioneered IPAS implementation in June-2015.
Q: Can you brief us technical features of IPAS Application Software?
Rohita Mishra: CRIS is now in the advanced stages of developing the integrated IT based system for all 3 modules of Accounting. Although core design of IPAS Application is same as design of PRIME/AFRES, following improvements are there in the system.
- Centralized Architecture
- Web based Application. It doesn’t require any client software on end-users’ PCs.
- Designed and developed using state of the art open Java technology can run on any OS, any Application Server. Java is futuristic technology instead of existing Oracle Forms based technology.
- High Availability (24*7) as all the servers has been clustered to run in fail-over mode. Thus, if there is failure of any server, the load will be shifted to cluster server immediately and under no circumstances work will be interrupted. The users would not know the breakdown.
- Centralized maintenance and management of Infrastructure.
- Secured Socket Layer (SSL) software has been enabled to encrypt the data to keep safe from hackers.
- Role based access to the end users which can be administered by Administrators nominated at each unit.
- Audit trails to monitor the changes made by any user including Administrators.
- Credentials of users are stored in encrypted way, which cannot be decrypted by any algorithm.
- No access of database has been given to anyone for security reasons. For running adhoc queries, a utility has been provided by CRIS to extract the data, as per requirement, by writing Oracle SQL queries.
- PRIME and AFRES databases have been merged into single database and all the redundant tables have been dropped.
- Inter-related data capturing screens have been merged into single screen to reduce navigations.
- No Pay Rates form for entry of Basic Pay, DA, HRA and Transport Allow. While processing of salary, data for Basic Pay, HRA, and Transport Allowance are fetched from Employees’ Bio-data.
- Steps for salary processing have been merged to reduce the work of end-users.
- Salary Bill passing screen has enriched functionality in IPAS. The screen compares allowances/recoveries/allocations with that of previous month for individual employee to check. In addition, variations are shown in red color. Moreover, the user has been provided all the information required for passing the salary bill.
Interface with Other Applications:
- IPAS has integration with Material Management Information System (MMIS).
- Design of Works Register is compatible with IRPSM (Indian Railways Projects Sanctions and Management). Once implemented on Centralized architecture, expenditure as available in Works Register of IPAS against each work will be reflected in IRPSM. Similarly, Budget Outlay allotted through IRPSM will be linked to Works Register.
- Design of Budget Module is compatible with RBCS (Rail Budget Compilation System) of Budget Directorate. IPAS once implemented in Centralized architecture, RBCS can be linked with Budget Module of IPAS for August Review, RE/BE & FM. Similarly, Budget allotted under Revenue Demands through RBCS will be linked to Budget Module.
- IPAS is being integrated with Crew Management System (CMS) for allowances of running staff.
- As application is based on Centralized Architecture, Real Time Information of IR level can be provided to Railway Board at all times.
- Being a uniform application similar to any other IR applications (e.g. PRS, FOIS etc.), all the business rules and report formats are uniform over IR. Compliance of any rules/circular of Board (such as DA Arrear, Bonus etc.) can be made speedily.
Q: What are the Functional Modules in IPAS?
Rohita Mishra: There are two types of modules in IPAS
|A. Payroll||Employee Profile, Payroll, Salary, Allowances & Recoveries, Annual Increments, Income Tax, Bonus, Cash Compensation, DA Arrear, Supplementary Bills, Traveling Allowance, Leave, Settlement, Leave Salary, GIS, DCRG, Quarters, Electricity, Cadre (Book of Sanction), Workshop Incentive, Loans & Advances are the working parts of payroll.|
|B. Accounts||Internal Check, Books, PF, NPS, Pension, Cash & Pay, Suspense & Budget are the working parts of accounts.|
Q: Was it fully rolled out on the Zonal Railway as on date?
Rohita Mishra: Key modules of IPAS have been rolled out in all Zones of Indian Railways. Other modules are in the final stages of implementation.
Q: Have you had a seamless implementation of IPAS Application during the transformative stages?
Rohita Mishra: Although there were few challenges, yes, the project is successfully running and few more milestones are in the process of accomplishment shortly.
Q: Do you have any Service Provider/Agency helped in implementation of the IPAS and related Systems Integration?
Rohita Mishra: Most of the development part is handled by CRIS. However the services of few System Integrator are also being availed in certain areas.
Q: How do you consider the implementation of IPAS has advantaged you in your day to day functions when compared to previous Application?
Rohita Mishra: Integrated Payroll and Accounting System (IPAS) has eliminated various hassles of manual working and the system is federated and is brought into a centralized platform and architecture.
Q: About Data Migration, what major challenge do you foresee while in the stages of the implementation of the IPAS?
Rohita Mishra: Any project of this gigantic nature may encounter issues like integration, interoperability, compatibility, structural syncing, configuration management of information systems and device integration and compatibility for various systems, while porting multiple data from conventional systems to single Application Platform which goes to the fundamental need to do more than move data to information systems, but to proactively use it in ways that can have immediate results. IR and CRIS have foreseen such aspects in the initial stages itself, have had taken precautionary measures and successfully come out of those challenges which served as the fastest and easiest means to establish a platform that has the intelligence and awareness.
Q: What major role the Personnel Branch will play in the implementation/execution and operation of the IPAS?
Rohita Mishra: With over 13.6 Lakh employees, Indian Railways is one of the largest employer not only in India, but also in the world. The workforce of IR is a varied mass of people from the Gangman/Khalasi at one end to Chairman, Railway Board at the Apex level. The task of the personnel department of Railways is to manage and look after the welfare of this large mass of employees and their families. Hence IPAS being the centralized web-based platform met efficiently the requirements of not only Personnel Branch but the Accounts & Finance Department and eased out the management of various human resources related matters, from the stages of induction to superannuation. The major modules includes Recruitment, Training & Development, Placements, Transfers, Service Record and Appraisals, Promotions, Court Cases, D&AR matters, Wage and Salary administrations, Settling Industrial Disputes, Staff Grievances and Redressal, Incentives and Financial aids, Settlement and Pension, retirement benefits, employees welfare, Dak and File, Industrial Relations etc. The project has been developed and implemented at Northern Railway and is under maintenance.
In Indian Railways, the complexities of Personnel Management arise from large size of its labour force, the number of categories and trades into which it is divided and the wide geographical spread of staff. All personnel functions for staff of Accounts Department are handled by Accounts Department. Service Records of all Gazetted Officers are maintained by Accounts Department through Password functions are done by Personal Branch. All personnel functions for staff of RPF department by RPF department. All personnel functions of Group-D staff of Civil Engineering Department are handled by Civil Engineering. However all these comes under the IPAS now thus removing various hassles of administration and thus had immensely contributed for better management of personnel department.
Q: What are the major challenges you have encountered in the Administration of IPAS and how did you plan to overcome those challenges?
Rohita Mishra: Employee training, assimilation of course content, trainers availability, time duration and milestones achievements are few of the challenges while implementing the IPAS and we could overcome them in a planned and phased manner over a period of time.
Q: Give a brief on Accounting Information Management System (AIMS)
Rohita Mishra: AIMS has benefited the Finance & Accounts Department of Indian Railways in a bigger way. The Finance and Accounts Department plays an Integral Role in rendering timely financial advices, proper maintenance of accounts of the Railway in terms of earnings and expenditure and providing in time management information, reporting for decision making etc with functions categorized as follows:
- Proper Budgeting of earnings and expenditure, pertaining to Rail operations.
- Keeping the Accounts and compilation thereof at the end of each financial period according to well established procedures and formats.
- Internal check of all transactions, both receipts and expenditure.
- Scrutiny of investment proposals
- MIS Reporting.
AIMS has been the catalyst for meeting the above challenges for the Finance and Accounts Department and the efforts of CRIS and the Electronic Data Processing wings of Indian Railways spread across all the Zonal Rail systems are impeccable and noteworthy.
Q: How are the HR and Finance Modules are co-related in fine-tuning the Application? Which are the areas that were covered under IPAS?
Rohita Mishra: The HR and Finance Modules in the AIMS Software have helped in a great way for an Integrated Payroll and Accounting System for IR on Centralized architecture. The Online modern J2EE open technology, Web based & Browser based, 3-Tier architecture helped us to achieve Real time information. The centralized maintenance of Application & Change Management has also greatly helped the department to achieve the uniform processes / reporting, speedy compliance of rules / circulars etc. Also, by way of linking AIMS with all other centralized applications viz.PRS, FOIS, MMIS, CMS, TMS etc has immensely help the Railways to achieve informed real-time status that which has become a base for Accounting Reforms. The HR and Finance modules that were catered under AIMS is as under:
|Personnel Department (HR)||Finance and Accounts|
|Employee Profile Payroll, Service Record, Seniority, Leave, Settlement, Travelling Allowance, Quarters, Electricity, Cadre, Loans and Advances||Internal Check, Books, PF, Pension, Cash & Pay, Suspense, Budget|
Q: Where is the Centralized Architecture and the Data Centre living currently for IPAS and AIMS? Do you have any DC-DR kind of environment?
Rohita Mishra: CRIS is centrally managing the entire Software and Application.
Q: Do you think that the One-ICT Policy that is being debated in Railways for implementation has any role in IPAS and AIMS in future? May please explain.
Rohita Mishra: Obviously. AIMS and IPAS application is one of the catalyst for One-ICT Policy of Indian Railways that is being formulated currently and the credit goes to CRIS immensely which is equipped with more than 800 employees – majority being the competent IT Professionals, whose skill sets in Systems Architecture, System Analysis, Design, Program Development etc, whose Technical administering skillsets are complemented by an experienced group of serving and former Railway Officials with domain knowledge, expertise and systems implementation. The initiatives of CRIS in various IT space for Railways since last 2 decades is quite larger that is helping to frame a new One ICT Policy.