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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Amazing Railways!

Indian Railways never ceases to amaze me. The most visible symbol of dynamic delivery in the nation is perhaps facing one of its most severe financial crunch in recent times. A commercial organization that is in monoply, is in the sellers market and whose produce is something for which the common masses and commercial bodies are forever queing up, finding itself in financial distress is something that one is unable to digest.

And therefore expenditure control has become the buzzword, without realizing that revenue maximization, not expenditure control is the open secret of success of all forward looking commercial organizations. Expenditure control implies a clampdown on all aspects of expenditure with the exception of the bloated salaries that the federal government servants have undeservingly become accustomed to.

That all expenditure is not wasteful and thus cannot and should not be controlled is a realization that is conspicuous by its sheer absence. Such a measure that does not differentiate between investment and wasteful expenditure is bound to lead the railways into a downward uncontrollable spiral. The sad part is the total absence of an appreciation of the ground realities and the basic understanding of running an commercial empire. If only our focus was on revenue maximization and not expenditure control, things would have been very much different and easy.

Yes, empire we still are, but an empire lost in a time warp. Unfortunately we are slowly emerging as the most visible symbol of how not to run a commercial organization. It is equally unfortunate that the fundamental constraint in running a commercial organization, with constant selling prices and upwardly spiraling input costs, is not handled the way it should be - head on.

It is not that everything is wrong with the railways. We can still boast of one of the finest workforces and highly responsible trade unions in the nation. We still have reason to be proud of the non stop criss-crossing of thousands of trains across the subcontinent continuously, non stop despite all sorts of imaginable constraints.
One is equally proud of the fleet of outstandingly capable officers who are brilliant individuals but find themselves as a helpless cog in the system.

Yes, we somehow run trains, but we are equally capable of running the system with ease and then spend the spare energy in high quality physical growth of the system, something that is the call of the nation, the India of the twenty first century. If only we thought and also peeped out of the box!

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