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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Railway Reforms - Article published in TOI of 1st July 2014

Jul 01 2014 : The Times of India (Delhi)
INSIDE VIEW- Railways in decline, it's time for overhaul

That Railways, the great monolith often christened as the economic lifeline of the nation, is in for a major overhaul is both sad as well as gratifying. After all, even the most modern machines require periodic overhauls and therefore why not organizations?
Actually , the Railways are in crying need for an overhaul.
The recent spate of accidents and the general public perception of an organization that still delivers where many others fail to, albeit not up to the satisfaction of customers, is the sad story of the Railways.It's an organization that carries over 20 million passengers a day and over thousand million tonnes of freight a year. But, it has almost reached its limits in its present shape and structure. And that's where the nub lies. There's no longer time to beat about the bush -rather it's time to call a spade a spade.
An archaic, feudal and sycophantic organization steeped in complex processes cannot be expected to meet the expectations of 21st century India.
Its three-tier structure on departmental lines, with a redundant tier in the middle, with its cadres aligned on similar lines is the real issue that is preventing a monopoly commercial organization from meeting the country's aspirations.
At one level, the well-researched reports made by persons of eminence -Prakash Tandon, Rakesh Mohan and Kakodkar need to be acted upon. At another level, the organizational structure needs to be shaken.
The famous Railgate scandal that surfaced and shook the nation almost a year ago failed to make any dent in the collective psyche of the organization. What emerged was just one symptom of a flourishing malaise, but the disease continues to grow unchecked.
How can an organization, often considered the epitome of corrupt practices, meet the needs of a rapidly emerging nation?
Leadership or the lack of it has been a key issue with this gigantic organization. Vision has been the biggest casualty .
The departmental structure is the underlying reason behind this as it has created satraps, each with their own jagir. This has created a situation where almost everyone always has a perfectly valid reason for not delivering.
The arrival of a new government has signalled chang ing times and hope, both in the hearts of the common man and the honest bureaucrat.
Hopefully , the reasons behind the Railways performing below par and also regularly failing to meet the expectations of a nation on the move would now find suitable redressal.
Look at history . It took less than 25 years for the quadrilateral connecting the four metros to be built, and each hill railways took less than a decade to be commissioned. And, this happened in an era when both technology and transportation were primitive. That 80% of the route we have at present was built in the first 94 years with 20% taking the next 67 years says it all.
The solution lies in simplifying the maze of complex rules, procedures and processes that this monolith is mired in, spurred primarily by a feeling of mistrust that pervades like mist. The answer lies in restructuring and trimming the huge bureaucracy that complicates this organization each passing day .
Increasing route kilometres by quadrupling the golden quadrilateral to begin with, creating the much-needed new passenger and freight terminals and ushering in an era of real high-speed travel, among other goals, would necessitate a radically different approach that is beyond the capabilities of the existing structure.
Basic improvements, therefore, would need to be followed up by measures that usher in a true corporate culture. The nation cannot be held to ransom by an organization that underperforms in a target-driven business scenario.

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