Some Panel Members of Bibek Debroy Committee stress early Corporatisation of Railways

New Delhi: The railway restructuring committee, headed by Bibek Debroy, has recommended that the restructuring should be carried out over seven years, but some committee members were of the view that the pace of corporatisation should be faster, an official in the know told BusinessLine.

The draft report, which has sought feedback from all stakeholders, also suggested that the Railway Board can have two members from outside the railway services, who can function like two independent directors. “The presence of non-railway cadre officials will ensure that dirty linen is not washed in public,” said the official.

The committee also said that the government should provide gross budgetary support to the Railways, while waiving the dividend payment. The dividend is implemented on the cumulative budgetary support extended to the Railways over the years and the payout each year is about 25-30 per cent of the budgetary support.

In yet another move to decentralise, the committee has recommended that suburban services be hived off to States. However, this would require changes in the Railway Act. “All projects should be planned and evaluated before being shelved as in the long-distance passenger segment, the Railways have 70 per cent market share,” said Subodh Jain, former Member-Engineering, Railway Board.

While terming the report “comprehensive”, Jain said it has a stamp of the Rakesh Mohan Committee report, which could not be implemented as there was no strong political will backing the recommendations.

The Debroy committee report recommends that eight railway services be merged with two cadres—technical services and logistics services. “All services should be recruited at the 12th level instead of recruiting only the technical at 12th and the logistics services through the UPSC route,” said Niraj Kumar, former Director General, Railway Staff College.

On appointing Board members and General Managers only if they have three years of service left, Kumar said “why should selected candidates not be appointed for three years, irrespective of age.”

Meanwhile, railway unions have opposed some of the recommendations of the high-level committee, especially with regard to faster pace of corporatisation, while welcoming some proposals, such as to integrate IT infrastructure, reform the accounting structure among others. Indian Railways is the country’s largest employer, with over one million people engaged with it directly and indirectly.

Shivagopal Mishra, General Secretary, All India Railwaymen Federation, however, welcomed the draft report’s recommendation that all projects taken up before 2000 should be re-evaluated and taken up only if there is feasibility.

Railways have a large shelf of projects valued at over Rs. 5 lakh crore, the current value of which will be about Rs. 8-9 lakh crore.