Friday, April 10, 2015

Lack of records, publicity cast cloud over railway vehicle auctions

The controversy over the arest of a chief commercial supervisor and subsequent stoppage of train services at Bengaluru City railway station for over two hours on Tuesday evening, is not just a fight between the railway employees' union and police. It's over the vehicle auction: some people in the union admit that malpractices are many, and even senior railway officials are involved, while others say there are no problems.

On auction are vehicles or articles sent from one place to another via train and don't include those abandoned in parking lots.

All India Loco Running Employees' Association general secretary C Sunish told TOI: "The unions had pointed out that Panduranga AR, the chief commercial supervisor who was arrested, is innocent and police did not follow procedures while arresting him. While the fight will go on, malpractices in auction of vehicles is rampant, in volving even senior officers.'' He said at least 14 other officials are involved, all of whom are out on anticipatory bail, and "Panduranga was probably only following orders" Police sources said the case was being pursued for a while now, and in February, a few officials escaped arrest with anticipatory bail.

Railway Police ADGP RP Sharma told TOI about 43 abandoned vehi cles were auctioned in the past few years and records for auctions be fore that are not available. He said the auctions were found to be in vi olation of rules.

KV Raghavendra, divisional sec retary, South Western Railway Maz door Union, contradicting Sunish and Sharma, says: ``There is no ques tion of misappropriation. The police say there are procedural lapses which have to be verified. But no money has been misappropriated, all the money from auction has reached the department, there is no question of anybody's involvement."

Auction rules

According to Rule 2233 of Chapter 22 of the guidelines for such auctions "The sale of lost, or unclaimed, ar ticles by public auction will be held in the lost property office (of the railways) at frequent intervals, on the dates notified by the chief com mercial superintendent by adver tisement and by public notice."

The rules say that only those ar ticles that have remained ``in the pos session of the railways for three months or such other shorter peri od as notified..." One contention that led to the arrest of Panduranga is that there were no advertisements or notices, except on railway notice boards, indicating an intent to cur tail participation of the public.

Railway guidelines allow officials to skip advertising in newspapers in specific cases. ``At least 7 days' no tice is given by an advertisement in a local newspaper. If there is no lo cal newspaper, the intended auction should be advertised: 1) By pasting notices at or near the goods shed..the station platform and second class waiting hall; 2) By a notice published in any newspaper printed in the state and circulating in the district in which the station at which the sale is to take place is situated.

Official gets bail

Panduranga AR, a South Western Railway employee whose arrest in a vehicle auction irregularity case sparked off a flash strike at Bengaluru City station on Tuesday, was on Wednesday released on bail. He was in judicial custody for the past two days.

Times view

Auctions of abandoned vehicles can be avoided if the Railways changes the way it works, and the rules governing the shipment of vehicles.A hefty demurrage for vehicles which cannot be claimed because the department doesn't send its dispatch papers on time is grossly unfair. The onus cannot be placed on the owner to pay up for the Railway's delay. Instead, the Railway authorities could look at online solutions like mailing the dispatch slip, so it saves the owner a harrowing time and a lot of money, and the department is free of such unwanted cargo.


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