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Railways under Revamp?

Sharing my views about some areas of this gargantuan exercise to be undertaken by the incumbent Railway Minister.

Railways Revamp -

It is being hinted that the current Railway Minister is doing a major revamp, which is very much required. But then, whether it is being done on a 360 degree level or only surface level, is the billion dollar question. Are the grass root level problems being addressed or are they being taken for granted that the surface level infusion will take care of all levels? Wrong Mr. Minister – until you visit and feel the pulse at these levels, very less results can be achieved.

No doubt he means well but then awareness of the scenarios at all levels is essential before venturing into any streamlining exercise. A tree needs watering at its roots, not its leaves or branches, to bear good fruit. As a retiree from Railways with 25 years experience in a Diesel Locos maintenance Shed, I would like to share some views and doubts.

1. Setting up of Diesel Locos Manufacturing Unit by GE in India – In December 2014, our Hon’ble PM inaugurated the expansion of the existing High Horse Power Locomotives production facility at Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi. DLW has since stopped manufacture of the conventional (ALCO) Locos to make way for these HHP Locos. Each of these HHP Locos can work in place of two ALCO Locos, at times. Additionally, the ALCO Locos production has been fully shifted to Patiala where only its rebuilding was done. After these measures to ensure sufficient availability of Locos, suddenly, within a year, setting up of HHP Diesel Locomotives manufacturing has been awarded to an MNC, duly assuring to off-take 100 Locos per annum for 10 years. This comes in the wake of announcements that Electrification will be speeded up to reduce the dependence on Diesel Locos. So, will we be flush with surplus of Diesel Locos or will we tone down the manufacturing at DLW? Was this contract awarded in a hurry to show some progress for the “Make in India” slogan?

2. Rail Vikas Shivir - Brainstorming camp – Suggestions were sought for this recently conducted 3-day camp. I had suggested for inviting retirees from all levels to the camp for two main reasons – their experience and license for open mouth (Serving employees are gagged from speaking against Govt.) by which they could’ve given a presentation with total freedom. But in the live streaming, I found only serving, mostly suit-booted officials, struggling to get their message through a restricted 5-minute presentation.

3. Staff matters dealing – A Personnel or HR Department is meant to serve staff and I hold them in high esteem, on par with noble professions like that of Doctors and Teachers. They are supposed to look after the staff matters so that staff can focus on their core work. But, with my experience, especially during my voluntary retirement, at almost all stages, I felt harassed. Even today, atleast three retirees’ revised Bonus dues (in Oct.2016) are not paid inspite of sending grievance to official tweet/email/website. When I visited my workspot a couple of times lately, I saw that staff matters were mostly worsening and demotivating.

4. The need for speed - Lot of effort is being put into speeding up trains. Good, but what about speeding up the efficiency of internal working, communication etc. For example, in the present dynamic Minister’s first Railway budget presentation, we got a hint of about 17 high-cost critical Loco maintenance spares (maximum ever so far) sanctioned to a starving zone. But the zonal HQ communicated the distribution only after many months though the Railway Board had communicated it to the zonal HQ within days. These items are not readily available in the market and are custom manufactured to requirement.

5. Performance evaluation fiasco – This parameter is highly subjective since, in Technical related offices, one cannot quantify one’s work as a proposal alone requires a lot of spadework and input, not to mention the process and the outcome. Also a hard-working official will rate an above average worker as “Good” whereas an inefficient official will grade him as “Outstanding.” Officials will also be under pressure to show “Achievements” in their periodical self-appraisal and "boost" their performance.

6. Motivation – 7th Pay commission or raise of pay will not motivate the employee to work more. In fact its delay will make tardy employees feel that delay is normal. There are many other staff and mindset related issues which need to be tackled to tap the stifled potential in Railways.

7. Medical facility - The staffs’ good health can only add to Railways’ wealth. Though there are Railways’ own hospitals and tie ups, the preparatory formalities are very much sickening and need a makeover.

8.Technology upgradation – Railways have a fantastic ticketing system and have computerized working to some extent. An in-house vast and beautiful internet network RailNet is also available but with lot of room for optimization in day-to-day working. The facilities and technologies are to be incorporated end to end, even at the lowest level and make Railways paperless to the maximum extent possible.

The above are only a few of the areas which need to be looked into. Presently, at grass root and other levels, the system is so highly constipated that a laxative won’t serve the purpose, it needs an enema.

Just as how demonetization is flushing out grey areas of our financial world, the Railways does need a complete overhaul, not just cosmetic surgery and I feel the incumbent Railway Minister has the trappings for dealing it all-round, with honest inputs & awareness from Railway officials/retirees. Let’s see how things shape up.


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