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Union Government appointed Debroy Panel to suggest ways for restructuring the Railway Board

Sep 24, 2014 14:40 IST

The Union government on 23 September 2014 appointed Debroy Panel to suggest ways for restructuring the Railway Board. The Panel has been tasked to suggest measures to reorganize the Railway Board and its departments so that policy making is separated from day-to-day operations.

The Panel would submit its report till the end of 2015. The seven-member panel will be headed by economist Bibek Debroy.

The other members are former cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar, Gusharan Das, former CMD of P&G, Ravi Narain, former MD of National Stock Exchange and Partha Mukhopadhyay, Senior Fellow of Centre for Policy Research, as other members.

Terms of reference of the Panel


• The panel has been mandated to estimate the financial needs of railways and ensure policies to raise resources, internally and otherwise to meet future demands.
• To suggest ways to reorganize and restructure the Board and subsequently the department so that policy-making and operations are separated.
• It has been asked to look into promoting exchange of officers between railways and other government ministries and departments.
• The panel will also suggest modalities for setting up the Rail Tariff Authority.


Background


The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget Speech on 10 July 2014 had announced to restructure the railway board to infuse efficiency in the transport behemoth's top decision-making body and run it on professional lines.

Indian Railways works on a top-down hierarchical model. A six-member Railway Board creates, implement and monitor policies in this segment and takes all key decisions.

The railways is categorised into 16 geographical zones, employing about 1.4 million people. It operates on a cadre-based system (mechanical, engineering, electrical departments, etc), with no separation of passenger and freight businesses.

The Railway Board was earlier restructured in 1988. At that time, an additional post of member (electrical) was created, though the structure largely remained the same as that during the British era.

Commentary

The constitution of Debroy Panel comes in addition to many other expert committees formed in the past to restructure Indian Railways. All the previous committees had suggested restructuring but faced stiff resistance from railway bureaucracy.

The past committees formed were Tandon Committee of 1990's, Rakesh Mohan Committee of 2001, Anil Kakodkar Committee of 2011 and Sam Pitroda Committee of 2012.
The Rakesh Mohan committee of 2001 sought corporatisation of the railways with separate freight and passenger operations.

Sam Pitroda committee sought reorganisation of the Railway Board, with separate members for passenger, freight, technology and business development. It called for scrapping the position of chairman of the Railway Board and replacing it with a chief executive officer.

Other key suggestions of the Pitroda panel included appointment of an ombudsman for all private-public partnership projects.

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