Mamata Banerjee's exit from the UPA and the reported reclamation of the Railways portfolio by Dr CP Joshi of the Congress has kindled hopes that it would lead to reforms and restructuring measures, urgently required to yank the public transporter from its current state of policy paralysis, and the resultant financial mess.
Following Mukul Roy's exit on Friday, the additional charge of the railway ministry was given to the roads, transport and highways minister.
While Roy's exit is expected to mark the end of railway minister "absenteeism", the recommendations of the Sam Pitroda and Anil Kakodkar committee on modernising trains and enhancing passenger safety are now expected to be implemented.
Last month's annual general manager's conference brought out this alarming fact: A majority of the zonal railways have logged an operating ratio (rupee earned against Rs. 100 spent) of over 100%. "Things have become progressively worse over the last three years.The Railways is sinking," All India Railway men Federation (AIRF) general secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra said.
Though Roy upturned the passenger fare proposal of his predecessor, Dinesh Trivedi, he failed to come up with strategies to fill the Rs. 6,000-crore gap caused due to the decision. "The new railways minister will need to hike passenger fares... this is a blessing in disguise," railways expert Vivek Khare said.
The Railways, according to the Sam Pitroda committee, suffers from chronic under-investment and needs Rs. 8,39,140 crore over the next five years to undertake modernisation of assets - including setting up of tracks, signalling systems, bridges, locomotives and coaches.