Prabhu starts reforms in Rlys

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has started working on reform agenda even as the Bibek Debroy Committee is yet to submit its report on how to restructure the Railway Board or opening projects to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and domestic private players.

Anticipating resistances from within, the Modi government had planned a step-by-step movement towards opening up the largest public sector enterprise to private players and the new minister has already started working in that direction.

He has issued an order to decentralise commercial decisions and authorise General Managers and their equivalents to take such decisions despite the fact that Bibek Debroy Committee is working on restructuring of the Railway Board.

The procedure to implement this decision would be formulated by E Sreedharan.  
Implications of Prabhu’s decision are clear that there would be erosion of the Board’s authority over General Managers, who are in-charge of zonal railways and the manufacturing units.

Prabhu’s other decision, which he took soon after taking charge, was to announce guidelines for FDI investments. Earlier, the Cabinet had decided to open only infrastructural projects. But, now almost all important sectors have been opened including signalling system.  The criterion which has been introduced for it is that the project should be a stand alone and independent of existing rail network.

Market link

The new minister has also indicated that he would change the way Railways is linked to the financial market for generating resources. He is planning to utilise assets of the Railways. Being a banker, the minister is well verse in raising money through securities and other instruments. He has already indicated from the existing pattern of utilising huge land bank of railway land.

Prabhu is not in favour of leasing out land or selling it, the method introduced by Mamata Banerjee during her tenure.

The Railways has a public sector arm, Railway Land Development Authority to execute such projects.

Recently, many such deals have been finalised. His decision to go for a new procedure may create difficulty, officials said.

However, the minister had claimed during an informal chat with media that passenger amenity and safety would be his priority. In fact, he is yet to announce anything on these issues.

High level appointments to be clean

Union Minister Suresh Prabhu may shortly introduce new policy for high level appointments in railways. He is contemplating a fast track and transparent procedure to avoid delays in appointments of general managers, Railway Board members and other high level posts, DHNS reports from New Delhi. The new policy will aim at curtailing
the time taken in getting clearance from Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and approval from Appointment Committee of Cabinet (ACC).

The important aspect of the changed procedure may be doing away with political interference, a high level official told Deccan Herald.

“He wants a procedure which should be transparent, but less time consuming. At the moment, many clearances and approvals are required for high level appointments. They consume too much of time and labour at various levels. The new minister has asked the ministry to prepare a different procedure,” said the official. 

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