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Railways’ recast: Unification of services to end project delays

Rlys' recast: Unification of services to end project delays  |  Photo Credit: IANS

Rlys’ recast: Unification of services to end project delays | Photo Credit: IANS

New Delhi: A day after the Union Cabinet approved the organisational restructuring of the railways through unification of the existing eight Group A services into one central service — the Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) — ministry officials said the move was required as there was huge “departmentalism” that delayed many projects.

“There were long delays which led to cost overruns, thus digging more into the pockets of the national transporter,” said a senior Railway Ministry official. “The restructuring was required as the national transporter was using 150-year-old legacy of departmentalism which was marked by inefficiency, infighting over control of assets and resources and delay in decision making,” said the official.

The railways has various departments such as traffic, mechanical, electrical, signal and telecom, personnel, accounts and others, the official said, adding these departments were vertically separated from top to bottom and are headed by a Secretary-level officer in the Railway Board who are called the Members and it runs deep down to the grassroots level.

“This resulted in officials working in silos. Its negative impact was visible as railway board or the Ministers on a number of occasions found different people accountable for a small part of a project, yet nobody is held accountable for the entire project,” he said.

This led to inefficiency and hurt railways’ performance as taxpayers’ money was wasted. Pointing to departmenatism in the organisation between the two cadres, the official said, “There was infighting over who will control the Diesel Locomotives — either mechanical or electrical directorates.”

On Tuesday, after the Cabinet cleared the organisational restructuring, the ministry in a statement said that unification of services was earlier recommended by various committees for reforming the railways, including the Prakash Tandon Committee (1994), Rakesh Mohan Committee (2001), the Sam Pitroda Committee (2012) and the Bibek Debroy Committee (2015).

It also said that the modalities and unification of the services will be worked out by the Ministry of Railways in consultation with the Department of Personnel and Training with the approval of an alternative mechanism to be appointed by Cabinet in order to ensure fairness and transparency.

The process will be completed within a year, it said. Former Railway Board Chairman V.K. Agarwal, however, differed from the government’s views, saying it is “not a right decision”. “For example, a normal person cannot design the railway bridge and even an accountant or some one from the non-technical department cannot do it,” Agarwal told IANS.

Agarwal, during whose tenure Prakash Tandon Committee recommended some reforms, said that if there was a coordination problem among the cadres, then it should have been sorted out through proper channels.

“In railways, we not only need coordination but also optimization. We have divisions, non-polytechnic and then board. And if any services were required, then it should have been done at the senior level or at the General Manager level rather than joining all the cadres,” Agarwal opined.

-IANS

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