Corrupt babus oppose Prabhu’s rail reforms

Corrupt babus oppose Prabhu’s rail reforms

By NAVTAN KUMAR | NEW DELHI | 18 October, 2015
Corrupt bureaucrats are opposing the reform measures initiated by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in the Indian Railways. These measures, aimed at bringing transparency and weeding out corruption, have not gone down well with a section of the bureaucracy, which wants to scuttle them at any cost, say sources.
Babus in New Delhi’s Rail Bhawan are worried with Prabhu’s decision to empower the execution of contracts at the lower level, which so far was being done from the Rail Bhawan. “The minister is of the view that the Railway Board can make the policy of financing here, but its execution should be done at the local level completely,” said a source in the ministry.
“The new style of functioning within the ministry has made the bureaucrats nervous as it has shaken up the status quo. These officers had created a comfort zone for themselves and the changes are making them uncomfortable,” the source added.
Another decision which has rattled the officers is the online recruitment of staffers. Sources said that recruitments were a major source of corruption earlier, but the introduction of the new system has hobbled the corrupt officers completely. Online recruitments started first in August for filling up vacancies of section engineers. As many as 18 lakh applications were received for about 5,000 posts and the final results are likely to be declared next month.
Earlier, the lack of a proper transfer policy of Railway employees led to large-scale corruption, with money exchanging hands for getting special postings. However, Prabhu has decided to introduce a new transfer policy, according to which, fixed periods of postings have been implemented for employees. This is not being liked by those who were posted at a place of their choice for years. 
The Rail Bhawan was a favourite haunt for touts and other such elements, but Prabhu has instructed the installation of CCTV cameras all over the building to check their movements.
Some officers are also upset with the minister’s directive that all general managers (GMs) and divisional railway managers (DRMs) should attend to complaints lodged by passengers on social media, since Indian Railways is a service-oriented organisation. Many officers, who were happy with their job earlier, find themselves “burdened” with this “additional responsibility”.
The ministry has also started the new system of e-procurement, wherein all purchases are being made through online tenders. Tenders worth Rs 100,000 crore are awarded every year. Earlier, it was easy to manipulate the process. However, the new system, which will be fully operational by 31 December, will put a check on this manipulation, sources said. Similarly, the auction of scrap, amounting to around Rs 3,000 crore per year, has gone online, making these corrupt officers uncomfortable. The minister, in order to improve the cash-strapped Railways, has increased the freight loading target by 8%, which was 4% on an average for the past few years. Babus have been asked to bring down the operating ratio to 88.5, which was about 91% for the past many years. This is likely to increase profit.
The corrupt bureaucrats are also unhappy with the minister as he has asked them to pull up their socks to complete pending projects. For example, progress in the Dedicated Freight Corridor project was quite dismal. Contracts worth Rs 10,000 crore were awarded between 2007 and 2014. However, ever since Prabhu has taken charge last year, contracts worth Rs 17,000 crore have already been awarded. By March 2016, contracts worth another Rs 17,000 crore are likely to be awarded. Thus, in just one year, contracts worth Rs 34,000 crore will be awarded to speed up this ambitious project, which will give a major boost to the Indian economy. Prabhu has said in clear terms that the project must be completed by December 2018 for which day-to-day monitoring is being done.

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