Unions to make it tough for Bibek Debroy Committee’s Railway Reforms

The onus of the committee was “reorganising and restructuring the railway board and subsequently the department so that policy making and operations are separated, the department does not work in silos, policy making focusses on long-term and medium-term planning issues and operations focusses on day-to-day functioning of the organisation”.

The railway ministry’s plans to implement the Bibek Debroy committee report on railway reforms is expected to face the full might of the well-entrenched unions in the railways even before a small part of the committee’s recommendations can be implemented.

The onus of the committee was “reorganising and restructuring the railway board and subsequently the department so that policymaking and operations are separated, the department does not work in silos, policy making focusses on long-term and medium-term planning issues and operations focusses on day-to-day functioning of the organisation”.

Over the past few days, both the Western Railway Mazdoor Sangh (WRMS) as well as the Western Railway Employees Union (WREU) have protested against the committee report. While the WRMS functionaries made a bonfire of the report, WREU office-bearers observed June 30 as a black day.

In the next few weeks, when the ministry moves towards implementing the recommendations, the protests are expected to get more vociferous and widespread, functionaries cutting across union affiliations told.

“This is nothing but a move to privatise the railways and give its vast resources to private firms who can run it as an only-for-profit transport utility,” said Ajay Singh of the WRMS.

It is going to be tough going for the ministry as far as implementing the report is concerned, with both the unions as well as the well-entrenched bureaucracy privately opposing the committee recommendations. One of the most vast and entrenched bureaucracy in the country, the railways has been plagued with indecisiveness and infighting for years now, agreed officials.

“The railways might be the largest organisation under one management in terms of employees but the ground reality is different. The five most important streams of the railways — traffic, civil, mechanical, electrical and finance — behave almost independently. These departments, all under respective members (rank equivalent to secretary to government of India) generally work at cross purposes, slowing down the progress of the railways,” said a retired railway official.

The Bibek Debroy Committee

The seven-member committee was chaired by renowned economist Dr Bibek Debroy and will have among its members former cabinet secretary KM Chandrashekar. Other members of the committee are Gurcharan Das, former chairman and managing director of Procter and Gamble, professor Partha Mukhopadhyay, senior fellow of the Centre for Policy Research, Ravi Narain, former managing director of the National Stock Exchange, Rajendra Kashyap, former financial commissioner of the railways and one as-yet-unnamed nominee of the department of economic affairs.

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