Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tip of the iceberg? Scanner on more rail appointments

Mahesh Kumar, now in CBI custody over a cash-for-promotion scam, was apparently dissatisfied with his promotion to the Railway Board. “The post of member (staff) is not lucrative enough compared to the electrical, mechanical and engineering posts. For Mahesh Kumar, his stint as GM, Western Railway, was more lucrative than that of member(staff). So he was lobbying hard for a dual role — member (staff) in the board as well as GM (Western Railway) — till he could get the post of member (electrical),” a source in the board said.
Incidentally, Western Railway, with its headquarters in Mumbai, is reckoned as one of the richest among the 17 zonal railways. “It is very likely that the deal Mahesh Kumar struck with the minister’s nephew also involved him retaining the post of GM (western zone),” a source added.
The extent of corruption in the railways could further be gauged from the fact that scraps, which the railways sell annually at throwaway prices, could actually pay for the salaries of over 1.4 million railway employees if the whole exercise is done professionally, sources added.
Several railway ministers over the years have permitted the nexus of general managers and contractors to run smoothly despite being made aware of their murky deals, the sources added.
The post of member (mechanical) is also considered highly lucrative as roughly only one-third of the entire railway network is fully electrified, and the rest run on diesel. The member (engineering) post is also a powerful one: one incumbent had raised doubts on the alignment of the ambitious Udhampur-Baramulla line, due to which the project was kept in limbo for two years. With the Mahesh Kumar cash-for-promotion scandal erupting, suspicion has been raised about many other Railway Board appointments as well as that of GMs, sources said.
“The general managers have a lot of discretionary powers over renewal of tracks, use of track-couplers, besides overseeing execution of projects,” a source said. Within the Railway Board, the electrical, mechanical and engineering member posts are deemed highly lucrative. While the member (electrical) supervises all mega-projects, the member (mechanical) has jurisdiction over two-thirds of the (non-electrified) rail network, that spans over 63,000 km.

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