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Trained to be the solution-provider

Into the last month of his tenure as Chairman, Railway Board, Vivek Sahai continues to work with a characteristic speed and passion to complete the tasks at hand.

india Updated: May 30, 2011 00:48 IST

Into the last month of his tenure as Chairman, Railway Board, Vivek Sahai continues to work with a characteristic speed and passion to complete the tasks at hand. Known for his integrity and efficiency, Sahai retires as the railways top boss on June 30. Excerpts of an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times:

What has the last year been like?

It has been an exciting and challenging phase. Mamata Banerjee, as Railways Minister, was full of fresh ideas. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with her. Over the last year, I have attempted to set up processes and institutional mechanisms with the aim of finding permanent solutions to nagging issues. Some headway has been made — largely on account of cooperation of the railway family, of whom I am extremely proud. Corruption has gone down. Passenger and freight traffic continue to grow. Railways finances are in a robust shape. The quality of passenger services is improving. A new class of super Air-Conditioned (AC) coaches (minus the side berths) will shortly be introduced. In the last one year, we have saved approximately Rs1,000 crore by way of prudent fiscal management. These are some of the positives.

Your priorities — according to your last HT interview — would be on improving passenger services, including cleanliness and the quality of food served. Much paperwork has been done, but plans have not yet taken off. Do you agree?

There have been delays, but we are well on course. By May 31, Railways will bring out a document for implementing the new catering policy. For operating the mega kitchens that are in the process of being set up, Railways will firm up joint ventures with reputed catering firms. These will supply hygienic and good quality meals at major centres including New Delhi. I will not be around here, but these things will surely happen over the next few months.

So, you are not getting an extension?

Absolutely not. I have never wanted to and have never believed in extensions. All this talk is just a lot of hot air.

Over the last month of your tenure, what are the jobs that you would want to complete?

In her last budget speech, Banerjee had spoken about the need for instituting the ‘Prime Minister Rail Vikas Yojna’. I will do my utmost to have the scheme included in the 12th plan — which is in the process of being finalised. My talks in this matter with the finance secretary have been positive. The Rakesh Mohan committee is working on the national transportation policy. The railway chapter of the policy has been completed, but these need to be formalised. These are among the big-ticket issues I would like to put on course.

Banerjee had announced plans to set up a Central Organisation of Project Implementation (COPI). Is there some progress on it?

It is being worked at. The Railways spends around Rs5,000 crore each month on implementing projects. Open line general managers do not have the time to monitor specific projects. The COPI suggestion is extremely relevant.