Govt breaks 150-year tradition
The Union Cabinet on 24 December 2019 gave approval to restructuring of the Railway board through merger of its existing eight Group A services into a central service called the Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS). The new board will have a leaner structure on functional lines headed by the chairman and four members — covering infrastructure, operations and business development, rolling stock, and finance.
- In addition, the board will also include sectoral experts from industry, finance, economics, and management fields. Moving in corporate lines, the chairman will now be called as chief executive officer.
- The government is seeing this as a reform, breaking a 150-year-old tradition of ‘working in silos’ that can remove departmental tussles, seen as a roadblock in fast decision making.
- Unification of services will end ‘departmentalism’ and promote smooth working of Railways, expedite decision making, create a coherent vision for organisation and promote rational decision making, Piyush Goyal, minister of railways told.
- This is also considered as the removal of another colonial tradition, after the decision to merge the Railway Budget with the Union Budget in September 2016.
- Based on the decision, the chairman will be the cadre controlling officer responsible for human resources (HR) with assistance from a director general (HR).
- In addition, the existing service of Indian Railway Medical Service (IRMS) will be consequently renamed as Indian Railway Health Service (IRHS).
- The government has lined up a massive infrastructure development plan of ~50 trillion to modernise the national transporter in the next 12 years — improving safety, speed, and services.
- This requires speedy decision making by various departments. At present, the Railway services are organised into departments like traffic, civil, mechanical, electrical, signal and telecom, stores, personnel, and accounts.
- These departments are vertically separated from top to bottom and are headed by a secretary-level officers called as members in the Railway Board. There are pros and cons for this move.
- In the past 25 years, various committees — Prakash Tandon Committee (1994), Rakesh Mohan Committee (2001), Sam Pitroda Committee (2012), and Bibek Debroy Committee (2015) — have been formed to recommend reforms.
- The current restructuring will be a zero-cost exercise and money will be saved by surrendering posts in the board and stopping duplication of works. In addition, at the lower level, technical staff will become multitasker, that may promote skilling and improvement in services.