Perform or Perish: Piyush Goyal pulls socks up to begin Reforms to keep Railways on Right Track

NEW DELHI: In what could be termed as the first major step towards organisational structural reforms in the Indian Railways, newly-appointed Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has effected certain administrative changes that are being seen as a curtailment of the powers of the Chairman of the Railway Board (CRB). Decentralisation is the buzzword in the change process.

Goyal has directed that the number of officers reporting directly to the CRB must be reduced. A few top-level posts have been thus redesignated. The officers on such posts will now report to the respective Members of the Railway Board and not the CRB. The changes have been made in accordance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advice to the Railway Ministry for necessary structural changes, sources said.

Both Goyal and the new CRB Ashwani Lohani were handpicked by the Prime Minister recently in the backdrop of a spate of train mishaps that cost many lives and led to the exit of erstwhile Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and the then CRB AK Mital.

While Prabhu was moved to take over as Commerce Minister in the Cabinet reshuffle, Lohani was brought back to Railways from Air India where he served as its Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) for two years.

Goyal recently chaired the first full railway board meeting where he took to task railway officers through a message, ‘perform or perish’. Following the meeting, the five Members of the Railway Board were empowered with certain functions.

A committee has also been formed to suggest ways to streamline the system of file movements and devise a mechanism for clearance of files in the shortest time. Further, all the Advisers of the Railway Board have now been re-designated as Principal Executive Directors (PED) with full powers to take decisions and execute rather than remain as mere advisors.

“The decades-old multi-layered file movement system which caused inordinate delays will come to an end. In maximum number of cases, files remained static even as Governments changed and rail ministers came and went. This would be a good move and projects will be put on fast track,” said a senior railway official.

He said the Minister and CRB at the meeting also discussed the Railway Board’s restructuring to make its functioning smooth and seamless and to avoid overlapping and confrontation between departments which have been creating hindrances for the holistic development of Indian Railways.

Prabhu had initiated the steps for restructuring the railway board, including redistribution of work allocation to board members and the creation of new post of Advisor for Resource Mobilisation for the national transporter.

 The Advisor has hence been re-designated by Goyal as PEDs who are also expected to provide a momentum for resource mobilisation for the development and modernisation initiatives of the Indian rail system.

With a view to reorganising the Railway Board on functional lines, the policy involves redesignation of the posts and accordingly Member Engineering will be Member Infrastructure with additional responsibility of signal and telecom departments (S&T). Till now, S&T was with the Member Electrical. Railways have already re-designated Board Member (Mechanical) and Member (Electrical) as Member (Rolling Stock) and Member (Traction), respectively, while redistributing the works.

Now, Member (Traction) owes the responsibility of all locomotives – diesel and electric, while Member (Rolling Stock) is responsible for all coaches, including Trainsets and electrical maintenance of entire coaching stock.  Member (Traction) has also been given fuel management, including all forms of conventional and non-conventional energy generation.