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Dec 2, 2014
New Delhi: Jobs in railways are open to all eligible citizens of India and there is no specific policy for employment of people of a specific region or terrain, Lok Sabha was informed on Monday.
"A railway line in any area is an engine of growth and it generates large quantum of direct and indirect employment which is not possible to quantify. Such employment is not created in terms of a particular project," Minister for Railways Manoj Sinha said during Question Hour.
He said the Railway Ministry has sanctioned 55 new lines, nine gauge conversions and 128 doubling projects since 2009. Out of these 10 doubling projects have been completed so far.
Sinha said the Railways have numerous projects worth Rs 2,58,00,000 crore remained incomplete and steps are being taken to accelerate them.
Now, instead of going to railway reservation centres, commuters can now book tickets from a Yatri Tickets Suvidha Kendra (YTSK).
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis inaugurated the centre, where people can book reserved and unreserved railway tickets, at Kalbadevi on Monday.
This is the first Kendra in the state. The NDA government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), introduced the scheme in August to curb the black marketing of reserved rail tickets.
According to railway officials, the first centre is owned by Harison travels, and about 80 more applications are currently in the pipeline.
For setting up the centre, the Mumbai division of the Central Railway and Western Railway received 34 and 44 applications respectively.
“Under the scheme, we have provided reservation system-cum-unreserved ticketing system terminals to the service providers at their premises,” said Narendra Patil, chief public relations officer, CR.
He said the service provide is allowed to charge Rs30 extra for unreserved and sleeper-class tickets, and Rs40 for AC-class tickets.
The centres will be active an hour after the opening of normal ticket booking, a senior official said.
Railway officials said this was an upgraded version of the railway ticket service agents’ scheme, which was discontinued earlier this year.
In the earlier scheme, the agents would book tickets from the railway ticket counter on behalf of the passenger, but charge extra fees.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his three-day visit to the northeast on Monday with a major connectivity package that includes new railway lines worth Rs. 28,000 crore and Rs. 5,000-crore for 2G mobile coverage.
He also dedicated to the country the second unit of the 726MW gas-based Palatana power plant in Tripura, which he underscored as the outcome of a bilateral cooperation (with Bangladesh) that SAARC countries should emulate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, clad in Naga tribal costume, poses with a tribal Naga spear and a traditional machete (dao) during the inauguration of the Hornbill Festival at Kisama in the outskirts of Kohima. (AFP Photo)
At Kisama, his first stop near Nagaland capital Kohima to inaugurate the Hornbill Festival, Modi unveiled the NDA’s connectivity plans for the region and said the centre has earmarked Rs. 53,000-crore for development in the northeast. This includes 14 railway lines, improvement of the power network and boost for the tourism sector.
“Northeast is a natural economy zone… This is the best destination for tourists. But for tourism, we need road, rail and air connectivity.” Modi said, while promising better digital connectivity, a national sports university in Manipur to tap the region’s sporting talent and six new agriculture colleges since “the northeast could be India’s organic capital”.
Part of the development budget for the region was for improving power supply in six states including Nagaland, Modi said. “We have sanctioned `5,000-crore for ensuring uninterrupted power for the Northeast.”
From Nagaland, Modi flew to Tripura to inaugurate unit 2 of the Rs. 10,000-crore Palatana plant, a joint venture between ONGC and Tripura government that would generate power for the northeastern states besides contributing to the national grid.
He used the occasion to laud his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina for facilitating the transport of the plant’s machinery through her country. “Such cooperation between two countries is a message for the entire Saarc region,” he said, offering to sell 100MW of power to Dhaka.
A strong Bangladeshi delegate attended the inauguration of Palatana, 60 km from Tripura capital Agartala.
Modi also recounted Tripura’s assistance to the people of Bangladesh during their independence struggle in 1971. Bangladesh’s liberation is a cause of heartburn for Pakistan, which stalled some connectivity agreements at the Saarc summit in Kathmandu last month.
The PM further assured Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar that the centre would take up his suggestions for setting up a gas-based urea fertilizer plant and a petro-chemical hub in the Northeast.
The Indian Railways has set new guidelines for checking the level of cleanliness at 50 stations across the country that will be maintained by private agencies. Mumbai Central and Bandra are among the stations where railway inspectors will use gloss meters to measure the shine on platforms and white blotting paper to check the amount of dust.
The inspectors have also been asked to check for bird droppings at stations, smudges on steel banisters of staircases, foot overbridges and escalators, and even footmarks while assessing private agencies' work.
Railway officials and commuters' associations say the guidelines, issued on November 28, are overambitious and impractical, even bordering on bizarre.
"It's funny. But we cannot complain as the circular has come from Delhi," said a senior railway official in Mumbai, who didn't want to be named. "It's not possible to carry out inspections keeping in mind the new standards. What is the point of drafting such lengthy rules that cannot be implemented in reality?"
Passengers' groups said that while the railways deserved praise for taking cleanliness seriously, it should not go overboard while setting rules for suburban train networks that are used by lakhs of people every day.
The Indian Railways has outsourced the clean-up of 50 stations across the country to private firms. While on the Western Line, Mumbai Central and Bandra have been selected, on the Central Line, Nashik, Jalgaon and Solapur stations will be maintained by private agencies.
The Union railway minister has listed the cleanliness parameters and inspection guidelines in a note sent to all zonal rail divisions.
The guidelines require the inspectors to use gloss meters to measure the shine on platforms, at concourses and waiting halls, and other areas of a station. The officials will also have to rub a white blotting paper on the floor at 10 different spots to check for the amount of dust.
Other measures include checking for footmarks, smudges and bird droppings at 10 different spots.
"Just imagine the crowds and chaos at any railway station in Mumbai that sees over 2.5 lakh passengers a day. In reality, will all this be possible? One would need to lock down these stations and keep them in a temperature-controlled atmosphere to achieve what has been prescribed. It is taking the cleanliness drive a bit too far," said another railway official.
Shailesh Goyal, a former member of the National Railway Users' Consultative Committee, a formal body comprising passengers and rail officials, said that conducting the prescribed inspections would be expensive.
"This will only increase the expenses of the railways. Do all divisions of the railways right now have gloss meters, blotting paper and other tools? I'm sure there's a practical way of monitoring the work done by private clean-up agencies," he said.
Subhash Gupta, a member of Divisional Railway Users Consultative Committee, a CR-recognised body for commuters, also termed the new rules as impractical.
"It's an idea drawn up by someone sitting in an air-conditioned cabin and having no touch with reality. Such things cannot be implemented at large public places like railway stations," he said.
Indian Railways spokesperson A K Saxena was not available for comment.
One positive in the circular is the rule that only a single contractor will maintain a station and not a mix group of private workers and railway staff. A fine will be imposed on the contractor if the work is found to be unsatisfactory, an official said.
In his interim report presented to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu last week, E Sreedharan — popularly known as the ‘Metro man’ — has strongly criticised the government and the Railways for keeping crucial posts in Indian Railways vacant for months. He has also questioned the process of delegating more powers to General Managers (GM) in the light of the sustained vacancy.
“It is therefore questionable whether GMs should be delegated powers with regards to commercial decisions and tenders when posts of GMs are vacant… a system of procedure to ensure no post of GM or (Railway Board) Member remains vacant at any time has to be in place before more powers are thrust on GMs,” Sreedharan said in his interim report.
According to senior Railway Board officials, the 82-year-old technocrat is trying to tell Prabhu that the move of delegating powers to the zonal railways makes little sense if top posts are kept vacant indefinitely.
Using words such as “deplorable” and “questionable” in the report, Sreedharan has gone into the present status of high-level vacancies to make a case for filling them. “Eight of the 27 top posts (including those of GMs) remain vacant. One GM would be retiring on November 30. The post of Member Electrical has been vacant for months. Two more Members will be retiring by December 31.
So 11 out of 27 posts will be vacant,” the report says. Prabhu has, in the past, said that the minister should not deal with any tender and all such powers should go to zonal railways.
The report has assessed that at present, Railway Board members are handling 14 high-level tenders, involving a combined value of Rs 17,508 crore. Citing the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, in which he was the founder Managing Director, Sreedharan has said that these tenders should be dealt with through a three-stage system.
For GMs, Sreedharan has recommended that they should stop referring high-value tenders to the ministry and use their powers to deal with them. Making a slew of observations, Sreedharan has also suggested that the ministry’s tendering and machinery procurement behemoth COMFOW (Central Organisation for Modernisation of Workshops) be phased out.
Sreedharan has also raised questions of the widespread system of nominating other serving GMs to “look after” charge of vacant GM posts in other railways, saying that “common logic” should be to let a senior most Principal Head of the Department look after the charge till the post is filled.
The process to fill up GM posts is being rebuffed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet for months now as the Railways has failed to explain how different criteria is applied to different candidates for the same posts.
The post of Member Electrical has been kept vacant by the Railways for reasons not cited while Member Mechanical retired on November 28. Chairman of the Railway Board will retire on December 31 followed by Member Traffic in January, with no sign of processes required to replace them.
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/sreedharan-questions-govt-over-crucial-railway-posts-lying-vacant/#sthash.p4gUk3B3.dpuf
Sreedharan submits interim report to Railway Minister
The General Managers (GM) who head the 17 zonal railways and Divisional Railway Managers (DRM) leading the 68 railway divisions are to get more powers as recommended by the E. Sreedharan committee.
This is based on the recommendation of an interim report submitted by Principal Advisor to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) E. Sreedharan tasked by Railways to suggest a “proper system and procedure to ensure proper accountability and transparency at the General Manager’s level and other functionaries’-level for taking all commercial decisions, including tendering.”
Mr. Sreedharan submitted the report to Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu on Thursday.
‘‘Powers will be delegated to GMs and DRMs for speedy implementation of projects. Hope transparency and merit prevail,’’ the Minister tweeted from Delhi after getting the report.
A four-point term of reference given was to delegate powers to the operating levels to ensure efficiency in decision-making.
Tenders would not be dealt with at the Minister’s level, the November 13 order signed by the Joint Secretary of the Railway Board appointing the Sreedharan committee said.
Mr. Sreedharan has also been asked to suggest a manual of instruction to be followed to implement the decisions being recommended. The Management Information System (MIS) is to be followed for proper and time-bound disposal of cases.
It is learnt that the Railways have set in the process to rope in IT major for streamlining the e-tendering process to infuse transparency on the basis of the interim report.
The online tendering would check corruption and speed up implementation.
Tenders related to procurement are online and managed by a software developed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS). But, the tenders for construction are managed manually.
The Railways have asked for a final report within three months.
A report of another committee headed by economist Bibek Debroy is awaited.
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