It is a well warranted fact that Railways have run the Governments in the past but in contemporary India, it is a challenge for the Government to run it! In the wake of High Speed Railway systems taking shape, the successive governments should be more vigilant and be intense in proper governance.
After a gap of more than two decades, Indian Railways came directly under the ruling political party of India with the Union Minister of Railways now belonging to ruling BJP at the Centre, and not from any of its allies. This development is after a gap of more than 20 years, as Railways is now under the ruling political party and not under the portfolio of the allies supporting the government. Government should hence bear complete accountability for it. Importantly, political control should be more intense and vigilant as all eyes are now on the duo of Piyush Goyal, who did an appreciable job as the Minister of New and Renewable Energy, has recently sworn in as the new Minister of Railways and Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani who served in diversified fields being the lien with parent Railways. Let us hope that things fall in their respective places in their leadership.
It is a well warranted fact that railways have run the Governments in the past but in contemporary India, it is a challenge for the Government to run it. Since 1997, Railway Ministry was used as a bargain or barter for support of allies in formations of Govt. It was used as a tool to bribe regional partners though it reflected promising signs in the initial stages. Later on, the government in power was confined to start new trains and took populist’s decision for their political gains.
Railway tracks laid by the British were totally neglected. Neither officials nor political leaders felt the need to keep them in good shape, maintenance; a subject of prime importance was grossly ignored. In due course of time commensurate to the ever increasing population the demand of more trains was felt. And it indeed was fulfilled and the number of trains operating on tracks scaled up. Consequently the load was increased on these age-old tracks which made the situation more vulnerable
This sheer ignorance has now taken form of disasters on tracks which were not foreseen by our concerned authorities. Recently, the ministry is more active on social media instead of maneuvering and being vigilant of the ground reality. To brush the issue aside the officials in the ministry delegated everything to the concerned departments. It is hard to imagine how arm-chair managing can help solve the problems instead of focusing on the ground situation. All what seems to take place in the industry is passing of buck from one tier to another.
There are ‘real’ problems in the ministry and the Govt. of India instead of addressing them has taken one step in the direction of creating chaos in the ministry by augmenting its budget with the Finance Ministry. Officer’s cartelization and internal bureaucracy is always at loggerheads for their personal and professional growth.
Currently, railways as a body, is not managed on ethical principles. It’s a stockpile of adversaries. Infighting between IRTS and IRAS who monitor operations and commercials. Engineering services, Signals, Stores of Irrational stores, they all behave and work as if they are autonomous bodies. There is an extreme lack of coordination and teamwork in the railways. In the name of building a team, there is only inbreeding unlike other ministries. They have got experts coming in and out. But here it is inbreeding of combatant railway officers.
Bright & honest officers are feeling suffocated in their own railway department which they regard as their second home. Ashwani Lohani, who was a railway officer, was transferred to tourism department of Madhya Pradesh where he was recognized for his agility and commitment. From there he was commissioned for a distinct assignment of Air India, there also he proved his abilities. It is disheartening to see that such committed officers are terminated from the railways.
There is big challenge for it to invite or begin importing officers like other ministries have done successfully to improve the bureaucratic efficiency and accountability.
Now since that India is progressing towards High Speed Rail systems which will gradually leave aside the antiquated British era Railway lines, those who oppose the high-speed rail corridor project citing poverty and the extravagant cost of the project should realise that it is a long-term dream scheme that a nation like India deserves, being funded at a meagre interest rate of 0.1%. High Speed Railways will create thousands of employment opportunities, directly and indirectly, in the long run. The Bullet Train is an endeavour to bring in economic growth and prosperity by adopting the most modern technology from a leading nation, Japan. We are living in a world where technology is the need of the hour and India cannot afford to miss out on such projects. It was once argued by the Left that information technology was a bane but it was subsequently proven that India is a world leader in this area. Likewise, High Speed Railway systems!
Hence the Government in Power at the Centre should be highly vigilant and sensitive to good governance practices right from the start. Political control should be intense & vigilant as Indian Railways had come under the ruling Political Party for the first time in 20 Years and it is an opportunity to transform for the good of the nation.