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Indian Railways and the federal shackles - time for a break up

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Infrastructure

There are state highways, and national highways, who builds and maintains what is pretty clear. Viability analysis and rate of return on investment is not the top consinderation when state, such as Karnataka decides to upgrade a state highway, or just build a new road to connect a new district.

Central Government (through national highway act, 1956) and now NHAI (through NHAI Act, 1988) does the job of:

... development, maintenance and management of national highways and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto ...

Then, you have Karnataka government (through Karnataka Highways Act, 1964) doing the job of:

—The State Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, declare any road, way or land to be a highway  and classify it as,—
    (i) a State highway (Special);
    (ii) a State highway;
    (iii) a major district road;
    (iv) other district road; or
    (v) a village road.

and 

The State Government may ... appoint ... any person or any authority to be a Highway Authority for all highways in the State or in parts of the State, or for any particular highway or highways in the State ...

Contrast this with Indian Railways, and its geographically arranged, and seemingly administrative purpose only sub-parts like South Western Railway. There is no "mapping" of SWR to Karnataka, or any other state for that matter. There is no autonomy of decision making either with SWR, or state of Karnataka or both of them together.

  • What benefit do we get by waiting on Central Railway Minister's speech to get a completely in-state train like Kolar Karwar Express or Chamrajnagar Bijapur express?
  • When the central government takes on the additional burden of decision making by propagating even the local rail transportation needs all the way back to itself, we get neither efficiency nor speed.
  • A local politician at Karnataka just can NOT make things like a Hubli-Bangalore high speed rail corridor his main election plank. This line of promise-making is plain and simple closed for us.
  • Why can two states, say state of Karnataka and Tamilnadu not join hands to develop a faster rail corridor between Bangalore and Chennai, and execute the project with no decision making dependency on the central government?

Rail, Road and Air are the three main modes for connectivity infrastructure. Air not being as practical for spread (cost), rail and road are key. In here, state has the authority to develop and manage only one - "Decade long delay in double line between Bangalore and Mysore, okay, we will do our own 4 lane highway!"

To keep the inter state connectivity hassle free and smooth, designated tracks could be owned by a central entity. Or "slots" on marked and designated lines connecting state capital with each other could be handed over to a central authority to plan and operate longer distance cross-state goods and people movements.

But one doesn't see much merit in the Indian Railways staying the way it is today. It can be argued that it is hurting public interest now, poor people (and small businesses - for moving goods) are being denied the cheaper (in most cases) and faster connectivity (that rails offer) and are instead being lured towards fossil fuel based and more expensive (air, private vehicles) options.

It would seem that a central authority is required only to

  • Issue and certify technology and safety standards
  • Safeguard cross-state and through-state corridors in the national interests (so that in-state legislations, say at MP don't impact connectivity of states beyond it, say Karnataka and Northern states)
  • Offer consultancy in designing and executing projects, as Indian Railways has built that expertise over the years
  • Regulate fares to keep the option of control in case few states decide to outsource operations to third/private parties, and they go berserk on fares

Let the states decide for themselves where and where not lay tracks, and what to do with and on those tracks. Its time, and it could be hurting public interest as we see here today ourselves through delays and decision making unclarity on Commuter Rail Service and ever-pending simple-sounding projects like Mysore track doubling or a straight line to Hassan.

I am posting this to check around on the sentiments on this thought. This thread originated after our recent discussions on whether and when to pursue that PIL for Namma Railu. A PIL to ask for dissolution of bodies like SWR and replace them with autnomous state government controlled bodies - that would be attacking the very reason we have to live with unclarity on who to go plead with for Namma Railu :)

PS: Thoughts are mainly from passenger angle, I don't understand the commercial/goods side well enough.
PPS: Railway map of Karnataka, courtesy SBC_YPR, he sketched this here a few years ago. And not much has changed in the two years ;)

Comments

silkboard's picture

Reforms - have been talked on and off

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Railway reforms have been talked about, on and off. Main stream media brings the subject up only after accidents, with shallow coverage as usual.

English language business newspapers have a one track way of describing reforms. Corporatize, or privatize. That is a separate debate, to me, getting away from the federal structure comes first. then let the state (or a set of states together) do whatever they want with cast iron and rails.

Indian Express: Reforms railways the china way

Guardian (UK) : Break up railways to boost safety (but focus is privatisation)

ET: Time to reform (one of those reactive articles after an accident)

kbsyed61's picture

Dsimantle the current Zone System

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SB,

You are bang on. Central Government has little incentive to plan for development at local levels. One biggest reform that should happen in Railways is dismantle this zone systems that has not worked the way it should. Every state should be allowed to plan their own Railway network and services like other central departments do - Telecom, Postal etc. Though they are central departments but have the state imprints.

We did had this conversation on Praja.

http://praja.in/en/blog/kbsyed61/2009/02/16/karnataka-and-railways-game-praja-initiative

http://praja.in/en/gyan/railways-karnataka-game-vision-plan

Based on this conversation, we even had given these inputs in the form of high level vision plan to a known politician.

A Vision Plan for Railways in Karnataka.

It is time this discussion is refined and a detailed vision plan is brought out. This time we should go further with much more debate and discussion in public forums other than social media.

n's picture

"They" know - refer safety

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"They" know - refer safety report pages 18-23 for recommendations.  Although, the 5-year plan recommendations (also discussed here) do not mention it.  

It may be worth a try to recommend to the high powered committee though their TOR does not include re-structuring.


silkboard's picture

national corridors, and the rest

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thanks KBS and N for your comments.

A national highway like "national corridors" concept could cover two things

  • Special status for capital-capital connectivity or national interest lines (say, for critical goods or troop movement)
  • Smaller states who may not want the 'hassle' of operating their own railway lines, can opt to give away all the lines in their state as "national corridors" (ex: small north easter states)

Inter state routes can be managed the same way various zonal railways manage trains that travel betweeen and across the. This would require some regulation (from safety angle - don't cram too many trains, from revenue sharing angle - formula for participating states to share revenues or costs).

Once Karnataka Railways is in place (Ramesh and IDS had talked of this in Namma Railu context), we can all think of a solid and well connected Bus-Train system to interconnect most districts. Right now, you can't. And any demand for this or that on railway front easy deal for politicians and even administrators. center blame state, and vice versa.

n's picture

Having state control over

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Having state control over intra state railways is definitely better and more decentralized.  The flip side is that a lot of states have limited funding and cannot match 50% cost share + land cost as it is now let alone all of it.  Besides, governements and transport advisors need to start realising that land costs + sustainability is much, much better building 4-line (2 for passenger + 2 for goods) or 3-line (2+1) circular, radial and long distance train infrastructure than building ORR, PRR, Elevated Core ring road etc.

solid and well connected Bus-Train system to interconnect most districts. Right now, you can't.

True in the sense that decisions from railways are delayed, politically coloured, steeped in bureaucracy et al.  False in the sense of providing convenience to people.  BMRCL (to a large extent) and BMTC are controlled by the same state govt. but metro stations are not part of TTMCs for some strange reason (repeatedly highlighted in the past).  BMTC is building TTMCs at its erstwhile depot lands and metro stations are built with additional land acquisition costs at sometimes-not-walkable distances from TTMCs.  Instead of building long travelator from KBS metro station to subway of railway station, what prevented building a 4-storey railway station? 1 for long-distance passenger, 1 for goods, 1 for maintenance / turnaround of railways and 1 for metro station.  Or, may be 7-storey with 1 additonal for maintenance / turnaround for metro, 1 for railway offices, 1 for metro offices.  See earlier discussions here and here.

Anyway, railway board is the recommending authority to IR so the ideas need to reach them.


silkboard's picture

You are right N

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There are both merits and demerits.

If not state wise railway authorities, some clear railway zone to state mapping with autonomy would do. Basically, local govts are better placed to plan, decide and execute.

For BMTC/BMRC thing, we at least have all the people who we want to go heckel right here at Bangalore itself. There is a chance of getting things fixed. For things like better stations, new tracks, new services like commuter rail or inter city trains - you are a lot more helpless.

About ideas reaching Railway Board, how could we raise the pitch on this?

  • Unless you take an extreme stand (dissolve Indian Railways types, you may not get heard).
  • PIL? From safety angle? Limited choices for in-state mobility angle? Differential treatment across states angle?
  • A well planned FB based campaign to demand Railway deregulation, where we project Railway's not-good-enough progress on speed, capacity and convenience?

 

n's picture

Round about way is to contact

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Round about way is to contact the appropriate directorate and wait like the CRS.  Or, can try NASSCOM / FICCI members to include autonomy / reforms in the committee's mandate.  Shorter method may be write to PK Bansal and copy PM and hope that they take notice.  Ex-railway board chairman writing definitely carries more weight than you or me writing.  FB campaigns etc. fizzle out as the general public cannot be bothered and is apathetic unless mileage can be obtained.  Legal is the better option but govt. will still ask for time to implement.  Ultimately, a go-getter minister is the best bet similar to telecom, airlines etc.  Even PM could not force Ms. Mamata to raise fares, let alone general public.  Bottomline, people can try communicating, legal etc. but political will needs to exist.  You know all this just like the govt. knows the fixes ;-). 


kbsyed61's picture

Most politicized ministry!

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There is too much at stake for everybody to let go Railways of political importance it has today. Real chance will be when it becomes like any other ministry, not politicized and allows autonomy at state level functioning.

It is politicized to such an extent that, even getting a stop at your village/town is considered to be a tangible political achievement and is considered a political capital during next elections. Therefore the near term reforms of railways has to be dismantling this over political importance.

Do we know why this is such a politically important ministry? Have we ever see any MP walking out or making a Dharna in both houses when other ministerial budgets presented or discussed?

Here is a video where present Railway minister Shri. Pawan Kumar Bansal Explains why Railways is so much politicized.

Railway Minister with Shekhar Gupta - Source NDTV

Railway Budget

The annual ritual of presenting 'Railway Budget' is the first cause of political importance. There is no constitutional requirement for presenting budget in Parliament. Have we ever wondered why no other ministry budget is presented like Railways? Telecom doesn't present it? Defense don't do it? Though a very important subject to know and let people know. Health Ministry doesn't present it either? No body know how this ritual came about.

Since it gets some slot in parliament, these days it has become more an opportunity for optics and theatrics to drive some points to home constituencies. The live telecast of its proceedings makes it more attractive to politicians to garner the attention to drive home a point.

First reform agenda would be to stop this ritual for Railway Budget presentation in Parliament. Let it follow the same procedure as other ministries follow. They all roll their estimates into 'Consolidated Fund of India' and gets the Parliament approval during Finance Bill approval process. Individual ministry budgets are discussed during each ministry's expenditure proposals, and is known as demand for grants.

With the theatrics and optics opportunity out of the hands, we will see ministry and its officials getting its space needed for real planning based on supply & demand.

Dismantling of Zone System

A lot has been said about this zonal systems and truth is it has not benefited the masses. It is time to replace it with working models like zones based on states and state circle having complete autonomy to develop the works inside state. This model has been making wonders in other central ministries like Telecom, Post. Has anybody seen someone even rhetorically making an accusation that P&T department is discriminatory towards the state? I haven't heard a one.

We all know performance of telecom with change in times and demands. Imagine IT boom without telecom infrastructure being not there?

 

kbsyed61's picture

Way Forward!

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Making railways depoliticized and state circles getting autonomy could be the way to unshackle the railways to realize its true potential. For that to happen, a real campaign need to take place.

Campaign could take this form:

  1.  A 'Roundtable Conference' under the aegis of IIM/CiSTUP/CII/FKCCI to generate common ideas and understanding to depoliticized the Railways. Similar to Namma Railu roundtable conference, with known urban planners, activists, Babus, politicians etc.
  2. A 'Media Campaign' with series of columns and articles driving home the benefits and importance of depoliticizing the Railways. Might need to partner with any media houses who finds the common cause.
  3. Series of seminars in different cities with Railway Board and Planning Members as panel members.
  4. Series of outreach campaign with politicians ( Who are pro campaign) to garner support
  5. Awareness campaign among railways, PMO, finance bureacrats with letters, campaign documents.
  6. Meetings with ministry officials and the ministers.
  7. Submission of demand with planning commission, PM's office, Opposition leaders

With right resources, PRAJA could take this campaign like it has taken up the 'Namma Railu' campaign. Excellent way to market among different levels of Indian System.

silkboard's picture

Lets discuss first

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I think there is no pressure to get into action mode on every discussion. Let us learn the subject and discuss more. I myself don't understand this well enough, and not fully convinced if state-wise break up is a good way. Alternatives are corporatization of zonal authorities, splitting operations/safety/passenger amenitie etc into separate units etc.

Lets read up more on the subject. Its okay to talk and discuss without putting early undue pressure to act. Talking and understanding is always the first step to prepare for doing anything.

silkboard's picture

why railway is politicized etc ..

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I think those aspects of railways are understood by most. How to make railways move faster, and in keeping with spirits of decentralization and local empowerment is the challenge. political use/misuse is a constant, it won't go away . Central ministers ab/use it today, state ministers will do that tomorrow. Its a slightly separate aspect.

The goals are:

  • How does Karnataka decide and lays tracks for itself?
  • If finances are hard to come by as track laying is more expensive that building highways (is it?), what will be the arrangement for central assistance?
  • How do we get a single and local (state level good enough?) accountable body to put in all citizen requesta and complaints regarding railways?
  • How do we enable Karnataka to build and raise funds for a high speed Mysore-Dharwad corridor on its own?

 

yantraka's picture

K-RIDE - functioning or wound up?

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If I remember correctly, Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation (K-RIDE - http://www.idd.kar.nic.in/kride.htm) was a SPV setup  by SM Krishna's Government to accelerate railway development in Karnataka.

Not sure if this organisation is still functional or merged into Infrastructure Development Department (IDD website shows status of some railway projects, probably dated - http://www.idd.kar.nic.in/railway-projects.htm)

kbsyed61's picture

Understanding Railways!

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I think there is no pressure to get into action mode on every discussion. Let us learn the subject and discuss more.

It is nobody's case that tomorrow we all should show up at Railway Ministry's doors with flag in one hand and demands in other. One day we could do that with Praja becoming a force to reckon with.

Talking of understanding railways, here is an important observation made by none other than Raiwlay's own RITES, in their 2012 CRS Report:

"...Indian Railways is a highly complex entity constituting various disciplines, various departments and various technologies. For example, it has got signalling systems ranging from conventional old mechanical type to semiconductor based signalling systems. Recently, a system of controlling signals from a lap top has also come up.


Any typical bureaucratic system is normally a vertical hierarchical system causing delays in decision making. Indian Railways is bureaucratic horizontally as well as vertically. This adds to the complexity of the system further..."

kbsyed61's picture

If issue is about state laying its own tracks?

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How does Karnataka decide and lays tracks for itself?

If we are interested only in Karantaka to decide and lay the tracks for itself,  you don't need anything. Railways has already facilated that farmework via this policy :

POLICY FOR PARTICIPATIVE MODELS IN RAIL-CONNECTIVITY AND CAPACITY AUGMENTATION

It is only a matter of state leveraging the framework, though it is a very recent policy decision. My understanding as that of IDS and others is, this framework enables the states, muncipalities, NGOs, private players to build and run railways and even integrate with mainlines. If this could be leveraged 100%, it could be a good game changer in railway's history.

A matter of public vision and political will. Are states ready to leverage it

 

 

dvsquare's picture

Its again a political will to

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Its again a political will to bring reforms in the railways.

Right now, Politicians use it to gain more votes in a particular state. Like Lalu did and Mamata did. Mamata used railways to start all the trains from Delhi to Howrah, and gradually become the important minister (obviously she was handling such a great ministry).

Also, we need to understand why we really want to bring in reforms, CRS, or double lines or other things are still a little far from very average or laymen's perspective. The major questions are -

(1) On an average, Indian trains are still running at the same or slightly higher speed at which they used to run decades before. Nothing much improved here, and as we are going in future, travel is becoming more and more and time is becomine a scarce thing.

(2) If we want to plan to go to our relative's house, or on a vacation or to our natives too far, we have to plan well in advance and book tickets as early as 4 months. If you miss the first few minutes on the day the train reservation opens 4 months before, you blames all your stars then. Getting a ticket in Tatkal is another adventure.

(3) Something has to be done for this demand and supply, demand has to supplied with enough resources, and new technology can help in speed and security/safety, and also good planning can make the resources (trains) to be used wisely on different routes.

(3) Train timings and their schedules (specially non-daily trains) are major point of discussions here. Non-daily trains always run on wierd timings and days from the departing stations or other important stations. And point to be noted, here ROAD MAFIA have their presence, they don't want railways to take their business for those overnight routes.
(For eg., recently railways have started this new train from Indore (near to my native) to Yesvantpur, weekly once [Had been in demand for a long time]. It starts from Indore on sunday night around 10:00 PM and reach yeswantpur tuesday afternoon. Now anyone with limited knowledge of official working days and official working timings can tell that this is the worst possible timeings. Why they can't have this train start from Indore on Saturday evening around 5:00 PM types, and can reach monday morning, so that people can travel on weekend, and reach Bangalore by weekday morning and can attend to their offices.
One thing is that, with the current resources, it might be not feasible for them to run train at times we are suggesting, but then again, if they just want to run a train on wierd days and wierd timings, and then can't attract people and then give excuse that train is not running with its half capacity also, so train is now canceled forever.

(4) If we are lucky enough can able to plan well in advance, and can book air-tickets, we are happy, as it saves time in travel. But we all know, in the last days air-fares go very high, and if we not able to purchase them, and somehow railway tickets available, but still we have to think, because they runs at very low speeds, still technology hasn't done much towards railways.
 

We should try to solve above problems, which are really being faced by common man. Yes, in turn they very much become what all Prajagalu's have discussed above.

And SB said it very right, lets discuss a lot, make our knowlegde base strong on this subject and then attack the problem with all possible way (PIL, campaign etc etc).

Deepak

abidpqa's picture

Referring to the map, the

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Referring to the map, the main line connecting north and south Karnataka (Arsikere-Birur), and it is single line. The other two lines are Konkan and line going through Andhra. The only double lines are those near Bangalore. The width of Karnataka is about 400 km and there is only one line, which reflects the policies. In my opinion, there can be a rail line ever 60 to 100 km which will have enough traffic.

Hyderabad is smaller and still got MMTS. From Chennai towards Bangalore at least 60 km is quadruple line. Bangalore had numerous Railway ministers, and still dont have enough railway infrastructure we would like. It is certainly not because Bangalore did not have influence or claim. Railway is already willing to build more with cooperation of the states. I doubt it has been fully explored here. If state is allowed to build and does not want to build, we will go back to the same old position.

What I would like to see is ombudsman who will answer to the people. Even BMTC needs one. Other option is to privatize. If somebody can fill up a coach, they could ask for more coaches. If they can fill up train, ask for another train, then double the line etc.

kbsyed61's picture

Operational Inefficiencies - Part 1!

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As RITES has alluded, railways is a complex system to be understood. It is made of different layers like in computer architecture.

Deepak raised some very pertainent questions on Train Speed, Timings, Demand & Supply etc. Let me make an attempt to share my thoughts with very limited exposure to railways through Namma Railu campaign.

Disclaimer - I am not an expert and nor claiming to be one. My rumblings are based on my limited exposure to railways and its working through the Namma Railu campaign since 2010.

I would like to view the railways in 2 broad layers:

  1. Structure and Organization - Planning, Policy & Decision Making, Budgeting etc.
  2. Logistics and Operations - Infrastructure Building, Day to day operations etc.

Since the emphasis in on # 2, let me share my thoughts on this alone . If one goes with the news reports, railway consultation committee interactions, as of today Railways has maxed out its capacity and the demand is raising day by day. The result is seen in trains going full, need to plan for 3 weeks in advance for reservations etc. In a nutshell Railways now do not have any room for increasing demand - running more trains, increasing frequencies etc.

We are given to understand that reasons for not able to enhance its carrying capacity is its present infrastructure can only handle this much and no more. One big factor in this is in many cases its infrastructure imposes inefficiencies. By correcting these infrastructure alone, railways can achieve 100% increase in efficiency. How?

2012 RITES Report, Section 6.3 carries the detailed discussion on how the Bangalore City Terminal (SBC) do not even have the capacity to add one new trains to its operations. Let me summarize you that discussion here:

RITES claims that by allowing:

  1. Maintenance, Pit lines moved to Binny Mill Land,
  2. Developing BYP, YEL as additional coaching terminals,
  3. Making PF's accessible from any side, i.e., Trains from MYS should be able go towards YPR or BYP and vice versa. Today all PF's are not operated this way. Example, trains on PFs 1 to 5 can not go towards MYS side.
  4. Making the PF's to be only passing lines, no ilding trains on PFs,

SBC capacity alone can be increased from  60 Pairs of Trains to 150 pairs of trains per day. It is almost 250% increase in capacity.

Here is the comparison of PF's capacity. Courtesy - IDS

 

The bottom-line is, with little investments, little new infrastructure and little corrections to the existing infrs., capacity can be enhanced by almost doubled.

Funding, investment a concern? A big worry? Allow private and State players to come in and create the additional infrastructure.

kbsyed61's picture

Typical project approval process in Railways!

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RITES in it's report lays out the typical railway's process of approving the projects from state governments. This is what it has to says on approvals in CRS context:

GoK approaches GOI with a simple proposal without details like preliminary survey report, preliminary estimates etc., GOI refers the projects to S W Railway for preliminary physical survey. Based on the physical survey report and based on the commitment of finances from GoK, Railways sanction the projects. This phase itself takes lot of time. To cut short such time, it is recommended to carry out preliminary survey of the projects which GoK intends to finance 100%. However, while undertaking preliminary survey, S W Railway should be taken into confidence and Ministry of Railways also should be kept formally informed.

Sanjeev's picture

Delhi Fares raised - Government committee in play?

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Look at the DMRC fare revision process,  the shots are called by Politics . Officals do not explore the innovative  ideas to generate non-passenger revenue. 

As the cost of Elctricity, Salary, other maintenance charges have gone up with Inflation, llot at after 2009,  fares are not revised,  shows this is also highly subsidized by Union Govt.   Same with Calcutta METRO. 

DMRC may be operating near to 100 % without leaving anything for  capital investment  for the project maintenance.

With fare collection is automatic in DMRC, cost are accounted properly,  how is that fare fixation committee will submit report in next 4/5 months is ridiculaous way.

Can't understand, why DMRC not able to run the service after 12AM is strange?  As Public Transport is not made available during night times, this will force commuters to use unauthorized services to move and finally  unwanted crimes we will see.

Source - Metro travel may get costlier in June

The Delhi metro fares are likely to shoot up as the fare fixation committee appointed by the government is expected to give its recommendations on fare hike by the middle of this year, said metro officials on the sidelines of a working model of a train launched at the Metro Museum at Patel Chowk.

Mangu Singh, managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said that the independent committee, constituted by the Union Urban Development Ministry, will make its recommendations after conducting a detailed study of the ground situation and if a hike is recommended, it will be binding for the metro to abide by it.

“They (the committee members) will study and give their report in four to five months,” said Singh.
The fares were increased last in November 2009 with no further hikes where the minimum fare was increased from Rs six to eight and the maximum from Rs 22 to 30.

Commenting on the demand of running trains beyond 12 am, Singh said that virtually trains are running till 12 am and the services start a little before 5 am, adding that he does not see any reason in extending the time.

Delhi metro ferries nearly 1.8 million passengers over 2,700 trips a day.

 

 

silkboard's picture

Yantraka, thanks, about KRIDE

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Thanks for pointing out KRIDE. Don't know if it still exists. Was  was perhaps just an initiative, not any SPV or clearing body with any mandate or budget?

Noticed that there are K-RIDE items listed even in 2012-2013 budget allocation list of IDD. (on http://www.idd.kar.nic.in...).

5465-01-190-3-04 (Plan)         "K-RIDE - RoB/RuB projects - Investments" 

  • 2011-2012 - Rs 2149.00 L
  • 2012-2013 - Rs 4000.00 L

5465-01-190-3-01 "K-RIDE Investment"

  • 2011-2012 - Rs 1.00 L
  • 2012-2013 = Rs0.01 L

Second one look strange, some token allocation for Rs .01 Lakhs !?

 

yantraka's picture

K-RIDE - Current Status & Future Role

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Managed to find the Annual Report (2011-2012) for K-RIDE - 

http://www.hmrdc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/K-RIDE.pptx

It exists, but seems to be at loggerheads with Ministry Of Railways (see the last slide).

murali772's picture

A key requirement to deliver Achhe Din

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The revival of Indian Railways is one of the lynchpins in the strategy of the Modi Sarkar to deliver Achhe Din. The idea is backed by political logic—the Railways connect India and Bharat. It also has sound economic rationale—the Economic Survey reveals increasing railway output by Rs 1, boosts output in the economy by Rs 3.3. 
 
- - - - The Bibek Debroy Committee has dealt with the issues and prescribed viable solutions. It has recommended: decentralisation, commercial accounting, cleaner sharing of social costs between Railways and state and Union Government, splitting of policy, regulation and operations, a new cast for the board, a railway regulatory authority, an SPV to host all the PSUs, bifurcation of infrastructure and services, corporatisation, liberalisation to enable private players, service standards, shifting of suburban and metro to state governments as JVs etc. It has also given a time-frame for the migration.
 
All this is good. The danger is that governments tend to cherry-pick convenient solutions. Since 1947, there have been 20 committees—11 since 2001. Many of these issues have been “solved” by past committees. As many as 144 recommendations by earlier committees languish—in process or on shelves. There is no room for another committee.
 
The transformation of the Railways demands political will and divine intervention. 
 
To read the full text of the column by the noted economist, Mr Shankkar Aiyar, click here
 
Says it all. All hopes lie on Suresh Prabhu now. 
 
Muralidhar Rao

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