Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rail projects marred by vacancies at the top

Mahendra Singh, TNN | Jul 25, 2013

NEW DELHI: The railway board, the top decision-making body in the state transporter which handles projects worth lakhs of crores, has been headless for over a month now. Besides, it also doesn't have a full-time member (staff) and financial commissioner.

The story is the same a rung below with several posts of general managers at zonal railways also lying vacant.

The vacancies at the top have led to uncertainty and are hindering the ambitious execution plan charted out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the railways. The appointments are held up in procedural complexities, including vigilance clearance as the government has become ultra careful after the recent bribery scandal, involving suspended member (staff) Mahesh Kumar.

This has also led to questions why vacancies are not filled in advance to avoid uncertainty as is done in the case of secretaries to the government of India. The transporter is required to forward a panel of names to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) three months in advance of any vacancy.

An official said there was deliberate delay at times in order to push favoured candidate as there were loopholes in the promotion process at the apex level, which facilitated favouritism. The rules are also interpreted differently to favour candidates, he said.

In recent days, the post of member (traffic) was kept vacant for around a year and chairman, railway board held additional charge during his entire tenure.

There has been demand to bring all matters relating to postings and promotions of senior railway officers under the department of personnel & training (DoPT).

The frequent changes at the political level also acted as a stumbling block in accelerating implementation of projects at a time the national transporter is reeling under financial stress and is faced with a huge backlog of pending projects worth Rs 1.78 lakh crore.

Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge has said steps are being taken to fill up the vacant posts.

As of now, member (mechanical) Arunendra Kumar is holding additional charge of chairman, railway board. Additional member (budget) R Kashyap has been asked to look after the responsibilities of finance commissioner and the post of member (staff), held by Mahesh Kumar who is under suspension, is being looked after by member (engineering) Subodh Jain.


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