The Indian Railways, the country’s biggest employer and carrier, is undergoing a massive reorganisation that may result in the closure of key facilities, the merging of decades-old organisations, and private involvement in the management of its schools and hospitals.
The Principal Economic Adviser Sanjeev Sanyal’s recommendations for Rationalization of Government Bodies and Proposal for the Ministry of Railways call for the Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE), the Central Organisation for Modernisation of Workshops (COFMOW), the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), and the Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuels to be wound up.
While top railway officials expected the suggestions to be discussed further, the IROAF’s closing has sent out a signal that the plan may be adopted in part or whole in due time. Official sources informed The Hindu on Friday that the Cabinet Secretariat, Rashtrapati Bhavan, sent a letter to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Railway Board last week, requesting monthly updates on the rationalisation plans progress.
The panel recommended that CRIS, an autonomous society that develops software capacity in the railways, including passenger ticketing, freight invoicing, passenger train operations, train crew management, and fixed/rolling asset management, be wound up and all of its work be handed over to the (IRCTC).
RailTel, one of the country’s biggest telecom infrastructure companies, will be combined with IRCTC, according to the proposal. RailTel focuses on modernising operations and safety systems via optic fibre networks that run alongside railway lines. The Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES), which exports rolling equipment, has been suggested to take over Braithwaite & Co Ltd. (BCL), which went bankrupt in 1992, according to reports.
The merging of Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), which executes projects related to the development and augmentation of the railway infrastructure, and Indian Railway Construction Limited (IRCON), a specialised infrastructure construction organisation, was among the other suggestions. RVNL and IRCON, according to the panel, have comparable duties and may therefore be combined.
Since “operating the railway schools takes up a large amount of time of the railway management whose core competence is in running and maintaining the railway service,” the Principal Economic Adviser recommended merging railway schools with Kendriya Vidyalayas or handing them over to the respective State Governments.
The proposal justified the decision by stating that just around 2% of railway workers’ children aged 4 to 18 were enrolled in railway schools. Only 15,399 pupils were enrolled in railway wards in 2019, out of a total of 33,212 students enrolled in 94 schools.
Another significant change suggested was the creation of Central Public Sector Enterprises, which would include eight manufacturing divisions. This would make the assets, infrastructure, and employees of three coach factories – Integral Coach Factory, Chennai; Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala; Modern Coach Factory, Rae-Bareli; three locomotive manufacturing units – Chittaranjan Locomotive Works, Chittaranjan; Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi; Diesel Loco Modernisation Works, Patiala; and two Rail Wheel Units at Yelahanka (Bengaluru) an asset of the company
The sources added that a merger of Central Training Institutes with the National Rail and Transportation Institute after the latter was upgraded to a Central University and an Institute of National Importance, was also proposed, as was bringing in private investment to improve healthcare facilities open to all in the 125 railway hospitals and 586 health units/polyclinics.