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Home / India News / Railways’ reform starts from the top, Centre halves 8-member railway board

Railways’ reform starts from the top, Centre halves 8-member railway board

As per the decision, the existing eight Group A services of the Railways will be reorganised into a Central Service called Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS).

india Updated: Dec 24, 2019 19:42 IST
Anisha Dutta
Anisha Dutta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Indian railways has recorded its worst operating ratio in a decade, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India noted in report tabled in Parliament on December 3. (Photo by Sonu Mehta)
The Indian railways has recorded its worst operating ratio in a decade, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India noted in report tabled in Parliament on December 3. (Photo by Sonu Mehta)

The cabinet committee on economic affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday approved the restructuring of the powerful railway board to make it a lean body and merged eight railway civil services.

As per the decision, the existing eight Group A services of the Railways will be reorganised into a Central Service called Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS).

The Railway Board, an apex body of the railways, will now consist of four members and chairperson.

The Union cabinet also approved the merger of eight Group A civil services into one, to be known as the Indian Railway Management Service.

The national transporter has been reeling under financial losses in both its passenger and freight segment.

The Indian railways has recorded its worst operating ratio in a decade, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India noted in report tabled in Parliament on December 3.

It had also noted the national transporter’s revenue surplus has decreased by more than 66% from Rs 4,913 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 1,665.61 crore in 2017-18.

The move is aimed to do away with departmentalism in the mammoth organization.

“Unification of services will end ‘departmentalism’ and promote smooth working of Railways, expedite decision making, create a coherent vision for organisation and promote rational decision making,” union railways minister Piyush Goyal said.

As part of the restructuring exercise, the railway board will no longer be organised on departmental lines, and replaced with leaner structure organised on functional lines.

“The unification of services had been recommended by various committees for reforming Railways. Reforms undertaken with overwhelming support and consensus of Railway officers, at a two-day conference “Parivartan Sangoshthi” held on 7 & 8 December, 2019,” Goyal said.

Hindustan Times in October reported the Indian Railways has decided to cut down the staff strength of its board from 200 to about 150 by transferring about five director-level officials and above to zonal railways in a long pending move to enhance efficiency, officials aware of the development said on Sunday.

A committee headed by economist Bibek Debroy had in 2015 also recommended restructuring of the apex body. The railway ministry had in September 2014 constituted this eight-member committee for the mobilisation of resources for major railway projects and restructuring of the railways. “As pointed out by many previous committees over the years, the Indian Railways organisation has grown into an overly centralised and hierarchical organisation. The feeling of departmentalism adversely affects the working culture in the IR [Indian Railways] and has resulted in actions and decisions based on narrow departmental goals instead of on organisational objectives or benefits,” the committee had said in its report.

It suggested three major changes in the functioning of the national carrier — corporatising the board, forming an independent regulator for economic regulation and separation of roles of policy making, regulation and operations suggesting that the ministry of railways be only responsible for policy making.

The committee had also said that there were too many zones and divisions in the Indian Railways and a rationalisation of the same was required. It suggested that the railway zones be made autonomous to enhance their functioning. At present, the Indian Railways operates its mammoth network through 17 railway zones spread across the country. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had in February announced a new railway zone for Andhra Pradesh.

“Once the zones are made autonomous, the railway board will have little role to play in their day-to-day functioning and can become like a corporate board for Indian Railways,” the committee had said in its report.