Monday, November 3, 2014

Bold reforms in store in Rail Budget

The upcoming Rail Budget is likely to have strong imprint of the recommendations of the Bibek Debroy-headed railway restructuring committee, with indications of downsizing the current nine rail cadres to just one, along with the government’s commitment to move away from cross-subsidising passenger tariff from freight earnings being on the cards. The committee is also likely to suggest restructuring of the Railway Board in a way that the monopoly of railway officials is broken and an IAS could come in to head the restructured entity for it to function in a corporate manner.
Sources said that the committee could share a draft report on the restructuring of the railways with the government early to allow railway minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda enough time to include the recommendations in February’s Rail Budget. “From the current nine cadres for the employees in the railways, the emerging view, which may reflect in the draft report, is to have just one Indian Railways Services having general and technical categories. Additionally, the current isolation of railways officials could end, with inter-ministerial transfer and posting being on top of the agenda of the government,” sources said. The railways currently has cadres which include mechanical, civil, electrical, traffic, signalling, telephone, etc.
Furthermore, the Debroy committee is closely examining the apparent failure of the railways to attract FDI and indications are that it could suggest migration of the current accounting system to the one in vogue in the corporate world so that each project should stand on its own as far as financial support is concerned, sources said.
While the Union Cabinet has approved the constitution of the Railway Tariff Authority early this year, the Debroy-headed committee is likely to recommend a single-point railways regulatory authority which could deal with all aspects of the national transporter, sources said.
Decentralisation of power to each of the rail zones is also on the agenda.

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