Railway Minister initiates move to ‘right-size’ Railway Board

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has kicked off the restructuring of railway board with a direction for pruning additional officers in the powerful but ‘top-heavy’ board.

A senior railways official said that the minister has asked senior officials to submit a list of unproductive staff in each department.

At present, railways works on a top-down hierarchical model — a six-member railway board creates, implements and monitors policies and takes all key decisions.

Apart from Chairman, Railway Board, there are six members—Member (Electrical), Member (Engineering), Member (Traffic), Member (Staff), Member (Mechanical) and Financial Commissioner. The members, including CRB enjoy the rank of secretary.

The railways is divided into 16 geographical zones employing about 14 lakh people. The national transporter operates on a cadre-based system (mechanical, engineering, electrical, traffic departments, etc), with neither any separation between policy making and implementation nor between passenger and freight businesses.

A senior official said that the move is aimed at right-sizing the all powerful board, housed in Rail Bhawan with around 3,000 people working of which around 270-300 are officials.

The decision is the second major initiative taken by Prabhu after he dissociated the minister from the tendering process to bring transparency and speed up decision-making while delegating powers to zonal railways and heads of production units.

“There are around 130 officials which are working at the rank of executive director and above in railway board,” he said, adding that its surprising that there are 24 officials from civil engineering department and 25 belonging to traffic services in the board.

He added, “If we include director rank officials also, the figure goes to around 250-270 senior official working in the board.”

Another official said that the board has become a kind of resting ground as posts are being created for “connected” officials who want to stay in Delhi.

Many committees and experts have advised for more than a decade now to restructure the railway board to cater to the changing realities but nothing has changed.

The Rakesh Mohan Committee of 2001 sought corporatization of the railways, with separate freight and passenger operations. The Sam Pitroda Committee of 2012 sought reorganization of the railway board, with separate members for passenger, freight, technology and business development. The panel called for scrapping the position of chairman of the railway board and replacing it with a chief executive officer while suggesting appointment of an ombudsman for all private-public partnership projects.

Railway Minister is seeking suggestions for Railway Budget 2015, but the website link is not working!

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has asked people for suggestions to improve train services but thanks to an error your inputs won’t reach him.

The BJP government is all set with its budget in February and to strengthen the railway budget and make sure amenities which people want be part of it, Suresh Prabhu had asked people to give their inputs on the Indian Railway’s website under ‘suggestion for rail budget 2015’. However, the link on the website is not working!

The idea was by clicking on this link any person can give any railway-related suggestions along with his name and contact number.  However, after typing in all the details, users are not able to submit the inputs because of an error.

Many Mumbai residents tried to put in their suggestions but faced this problem.

After the recent protest at Diva station over delay in train services, the railway minister had travelled in the local trains of Mumbai and spoke to people regarding the various issues they face while travelling. “We will figure long-term solutions for the less number of local trains in Mumbai compared to the high density of people. We will talk to commuters and will try and know their problems,” Prabhu had said. However, the error has stopped any suggestions from coming in.

Prashant Dhanapgol, who uses Mumbai local train for his daily commute, said, “For years we wanted to make sure the government hears what people want and need. This time when I heard about this suggestion link I was really looking forward to write about my grievances and suggestion. I did try to put in my suggestions but couldn’t. So much happened at Diva the other day. The Mumbai Central train comes late every day. Had thought of writing something about that. The 15-bogey train haven’t yet come. Thought will write about it.”

Railway officials in Mumbai refused to comment on this glitch and said the matter is under the jurisdiction of Delhi.