Railway Board rolls back its Order delegating more powers to DRMs

NEW DELHI: The Railway Board has reversed its order delegating power to Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs), rolling back a key reform that had been implemented last year. DRMs are additional secretary or senior joint secretary rank officials and operational heads of the railways across all its 68 divisions.

The earlier order of delegation of powers to DRMs was issued to end the archaic departmentalisation that prevailed at the national transporter, which has a total of eight cadres of group A services.

The high number of services and departments in railways has been holding up operational efficiency at the ground level by delaying the decision-making process, several expert committee reports have said in the past.

To ensure that the railways worked as one department and not in silos, it was decided by the ministry last year that the authority for routine decisions at the division level including the transfer, interchanging and assigning of duties should rest with DRMs and not heads of departments. The order implementing the decentralisation was issued in November last year by the Railway Board.

It aimed to promote better interdepartmental functioning and was the first of the many powers that were to be delegated to DRMs. DRM rank officials had very limited administrative and financial authority and the government had planned to gradually devolve this authority to them for efficient planning, faster implementation of projects and award of tenders.

“The hands of DRMs have been tied again, as to change duties of a junior scale employee or to get more people on a particular project, they will be dependent on the head of the department,” a former DRM level official told.

A fresh order issued on July 9 with the approval of Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said: “The issue has been reconsidered and it has been decided by the Rail Board to withdraw the instructions. Decision taken, if any, should be withdrawn with immediate effect.”

The chairman of the seven-member Railway Board had previously said that he wanted to give more powers to field officials. A press release issued by the ministry last year had counted empowerment of DRMs as a major reform.

The Bibek Debroy committee had said that the overly centralised structure and departmentalisation was adversely affecting the railways’ work culture and leading to actions and decisions based on narrow departmental goals.

“It is noted that many a time practices and incidents impinging on safety in train operation and also the cause of accidents are not fairly brought to the notice of management as departmental loyalties often overshadow the quest for getting into the ground realities for improvement,” the Anil Kakodkar committee had said in its 2012 report