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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Restructuring Railways

The ongoing debate on the IRSME site about the superiority of SCRA vs DR has me totally foxed. While on the one hand one longs for the much awaited IRS (Indian Railway Service), their is still a band of people who would prefer to continue with the divide in the mechanical cadre, one of the nine disciplines of the railways.

It is rather sad that the railways, unlike other sectors of the government, failed to evolve with the times and sadly so, for want of a strong decision maker have preferred the status quo since the time the country came on her own in 1947. So while the nation is managed by one service, namely the IAS, the railways is (mis)managed by nine, with each service having a narrow sectoral focus and none, none of its officers having the capability to take an overall view.

The separation of the railway budget from the general exchequer, sometime in the early nineteenth century was done primarily on commercial considerations. It was felt by the british that the railways being a commercial organization would need flexibility in its finances and hence this decision. Unfortunately the railways have emerged as an extremely rigid organization, more rigid that even the typical government departments, thereby nullifying the original objectives of this decision.

The contractual mechanisms and typical decision making processes in the railways are rigid and archaic. Perhaps this is due to the lack of a will to change, a situation that has occurred primarily due to the multiplicity of services on the system.

It is high time, the railways get a chief executive who looks beyond the narrow confines of his service and pulls us out of the abyss we find ourselves in.

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