Railway Reforms

[oped of the day] Mission successful, end product defunct

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Railway reforms

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.

CONTEXT

In October 2018, the country was celebrating a technological achievement: the successful rolling out of a state-of-the-art, semi-high-speed train set called ‘Train 18’. 

Facts behind its significance

  • It was achieved in an incredibly short time span of 18 months. 
  • Train 18 propelled India into the exclusive club of about a half a dozen countries in the world that have the capability to turn out a brand new design of a high-speed/semi-high-speed train set in such a short time.
  • The train has provided a trouble-free performance in the last six months. 

Challenges faced by the train

  • A vigilance investigation was launched into certain alleged procedural irregularities and allegations of undue favours shown to a particular indigenous firm in awarding contracts for the propulsion system.
  • It was also reported that deviations had been observed from the specifications prescribed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO).
  • A few months after the train’s inauguration, it was announced that “the Railways would be willing to start the import of complete train sets from foreign suppliers if they agreed to establish the coach manufacturing facility in India. 
  • If contrasted with ISRO, it is like going in for import of its rockets and space vehicles from the U.S. or Russia.

What are the reasons behind failure

  • Though both ISRO and railways are public sector organisations and reflected the spirit of ‘Make in India’, their objectives and organisational structure are entirely different. 
  • While ISRO functions mostly in ‘mission mode’ to achieve specific goals of a mission, the Indian Railways operates in ‘maintenance mode’, to keep the wheels of the railway network moving with the least disruption. 
  • This aim of Railways is achieved through more than a dozen functional departments that normally work in close coordination.
  • Only certain specific projects or initiatives are undertaken in ‘mission mode’. The Train 18 project was one such undertaking that required the planners to cut red tape and reduce needless procedural hassles. 
  • The scourge of interdepartmental rivalries and turf wars within the Indian Railways has damaged the organisational morale and synergy in the functioning of the nation’s prime public transporter. 

Way ahead

  • A committee of experts under NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy gave its recommendations in 2015. 
  • The ‘Mission Train 18’ is proof that nothing has changed since then and that the departmental silos are alive and well.
  • Political leadership has to push for reforms in this area.
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