Removing trust deficit will be priority: Railway minister CP Joshi

NEW DELHI: Railway Minister CP Joshi has said that removing trust deficit among staff and making procedures transparent will be the cornerstone of his efforts at Rail Bhawan. “I will try to improve the trust deficit prevailing among the staff. I will carry out all my responsibilities honestly and in a transparent manner,” Joshi said on Monday, the first day of his second stint at Rail Bhawan.

1348473392_c-p-joshi_2Joshi was given additional charge of railways after its minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal, quit last week in the wake of a cash-for-jobs scandal. After meeting members of the Railway Board, Joshi left for the road transport ministry, of which too he is in-charge.

Joshi is likely to retain the new portfolio, which he had briefly held in September last year, a person familiar with the matter said. Senior officials and some former board members say filling vacancies on the Railway Board and fixing a graft-tainted recruitment system should top the agenda for Joshi. “The first thing Joshi needs to do is appoint the right people on the board. Positions are kept open unnecessarily with long delays in sending the proposed candidates’ names, which can easily be done before the vacancies arise,” a former Board member told ET.

For instance, the official pointed out, the post of member (engineering) was kept vacant for three months, though the official eligible for the post was known.

Apart from the post of member (staff) in the Railway Board, which is at the heart of the allegations of bribery, the post of member (traffic) is also vacant. The Board’s chairman, Vinay Mittal, too is due to retire in two months’ time.

“There have been instances of chairmen holding on to the post of a member and not giving it out to the right person, as well as cases where the senior-most candidates were bypassed and personal favourites appointed instead. This erodes the morale of employees and the willingness to perform their duties,” a senior official, who did not wish to be named, said.

Indian Railways, the country’s largest employer with 1.4 million employees, has the dubious distinction of facing the highest number of allegations for corruption among government departments, year after year. In 2011, for instance, the Central Vigilance Commission received 8,805 complaints against railway employees and the apex anti-corruption body expressed serious concern over the ministry’s tardy pace of action on its advisories.

A study by the CVC found that 17% of all investigated cases relating to the railways pertained to irregularities in appointments.

In the Bansal episode, the CBI claims to have established a link between bribes for appointments and the power to award lucrative contracts.