New Delhi: The Indian Railways ‘Innovation Challenge’ has received 1,366 submissions till date, according to the information available on mygov.in website.
Of these, a maximum number of 714 applications have been submitted for the specific challenge of improving the national carrier’s working.
Railways has floated six challenges to crowd source ideas to improve its performance under themes such as identifying new non-fare revenue sources, efficient wagon design, accessibility to trains from low level platforms, increasing passenger carrying capacity of coaches and developing new digital capabilities at stations.
Indian Railways is the world’s largest railway network under a single management. It runs around 20,849 trains daily and transports 23 million passengers. This presents a unique set of challenges before the national carrier.
The ‘Innovation Challenge’ was first announced by the railway minister Suresh Prabhu in his last budget speech for 2016-17, and assumes importance given the national carrier’s uphill competition from airlines and road transport to carry people and freight. Also, there have been a spate of accidents which have again put the spotlight on its abysmal safety record.
“Minister of railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said that an idea is a perquisite for change and innovative ideas can be borne in mind by anyone whether a stakeholder, a rail user or any other individual. He said that today’s generation is very innovative and technology savvy and the coming time will be completely digitalize,” according to a 16 December government statement.
Desperate times need desperate measures. In the nine months to December, the national transporter posted a disappointing performance by running up a record-high operating ratio of 109%, meaning it spent Rs109 to generate Rs100 as reported by Mint.
In order to drum up participation, emails with the subject line “Are you up for the Railways Innovation Challenge?” are also being sent, with the last date for online application submission being 20 May. The challenge was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rail Vikas Shivir held at Surajkund in Haryana on 20 November.
MyGov is an online portal of the Union government where different departments seek suggestions and advice and was launched on 26 July 2014. Over the last year, the site with around 1.78 million users saw discussion on ideas such as simultaneous elections and open data use licence.
The challenge couldn’t be timed better. According to the report of the Standing Committee on Railways on safety and security submitted in December, “…it has been apprised that though the traffic of both passengers and freight over the Railways network had increased by 1,344% and 1,642%, respectively, over the last 64 years the route kilometres had grown by only 23% .”
“Further, the share of the Indian Railway in overall GDP has in fact sunk now below 1% of the total,” the report added.
The Economic Survey projected the Indian economy to grow in the range of 6.75% to 7.50% in the next fiscal year 2017-18. In Union budget 2017, finance minister Arun Jaitley also made a record allocation of Rs1.3 trillion for Indian Railways, with a gross budgetary support of Rs55,000 crore.
Understanding the importance of these ideas; there is a remuneration attached to them. Each of these six challenges has six awards ranging from prize money of Rs6 lakh to Rs1 lakh. In return, “participant grants Indian Railways and its affiliated units/ ministries a transferable, worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid-up license…”