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Govt. signals Railways to rectify its track

IRCTC proposes privatization of railways

New Delhi, June 25 (UITV):Train travel is the stuff presented in many Indian movies on a romantic and thrilling note. The trivial mention of trains gets middle-aged parents recollecting about their childhood days when they visited their cousin's place during summer vacation, the accidental meetings they had with the most remarkable strangers.
India’s passenger funicular railway was run today at the Palani temple in Tamil Nadu and the Saptashrungi temple in Maharashtra. Steam engines were restored by diesel locomotives and, then considerably by electric or diesel-electric hybrid engines over the last two centuries.

Indian Railways (IR) has the fourth-greatest rail network in the world, behind only the US, China, and Russia. It is a network of 70,000km, spanning 29 states, three Union territories, and 8,500 stations. It runs about 21,000 trains, two-thirds of which are passenger trains, moving 23 million passengers and 3 million tonnes of freight each day. This translates into 1.2 trillion passengers traveled a year in India by 8 billion passengers. Utilizing a metric of casualties per billion journeys, rail is among the guarded forms of travel. Measured by distance instead of journeys, air travel is secured, with rail and water travel fairly affordable.

IR simply makes the list of the top 10 employers in the world with nearly 1.3 million employees; the US, Chinese and Indian armies are on that same list, along with Walmart and McDonald’s. These employees are classified into 17 zones and 68 divisions for its activities. Each division has members from a dozen divisions: signals and engineering to medicine. Each zone is guided by a general manager with operative and administrative responsibility, with employees in a cast reporting relationship to functional heads at the Railway Board (RB). The RB itself was first composed under the Railway Board Act of 1905. IR has been controlled by a managerial structure that has been in place for nearly a century and runs on infrastructure that has been enhanced gradually over that period.

To safeguard IR meets the essentials of an eventual $5 trillion economy, it requires two types of reform: administrative, to improve services, safety and efficiency; and engineering, to boost value and environmental potential. Since independence, there has been a reform committee/commission of some type associated with IR almost every two years–the prominent ones include committees led by Prakash Tandon (1994) on organizational structure and management ethos, Rakesh Mohan (2001) on policy renovation Sam Pitroda (2012) on railway modification, and the current, one by Bibek Debroy (2015) on railway reconstitutions.

While there are several amendment steps recommended, the different chambers to agree on two factors: first, the management organization needs to be extremely facilitating and that reckoning should be in collaborative-style, double-entry form. The trouble appears to be the political will to get the decision executed. The Debroy committee’s counsel to unconnect the key functions (rail operations) of IR from the non-key (medical, schools, protection force, etc.) makes a distinguished feeling. The Debroy committee also endorses a reconsidered administration structure that is authorized to make a resolution and produce some distance from the government.

Another significant amendment purpose on railway estimate and that is to sell passenger tickets at market prices while providing a price subsidy to deserving passengers through a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system, similar to the cooking gas subsidy. This will enable a regularization of passenger fares for most travelers and an end to inner cross-subsidization by (ever expanding) freight prices. This passenger price hike and other revenue improvement measures, such as the allocation of IR’s mobile and immovable assets in a well-planned pattern for advertisements and retail shops (including moving out ticketing from stations), will bring in compulsory wealth for the engineering and safety development needed.

These include new signal systems, final integration of the broad-gauging and electrifying f tracks, devoted fastened corridors for certain lines, and upgraded coaches and services. As a provider of logistics services for passengers and freight, IR needs a more creative supply chain plan for both inputs and output. Airports have done an excellent job of gratifying consumer demand by creating retail as well as food and beverage outlets: there is no cause why some stations cannot pursue to be retail terminals in themselves.

IR suffers less from a flow of new ideas and more from failures to get them implemented. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government can use an impressive parliamentary majority to finally put India’s much-needed railway reforms on track.