Home >politics >policy >Railway ministry sets up panel under Bibek Debroy

New Delhi: The ministry of railways has formed a high-level committee to look into the restructuring of the railway board and mobilization of resources for major projects, according to a notification posted on the ministry’s website.

The seven-member panel will be headed by economist Bibek Debroy and include former cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar; Gurcharan Das, former chief executive officer of Procter and Gamble Co.’s India business; Partha Mukhopadhyay, senior fellow at the think tank Centre for Policy Research; Ravi Narain, a former managing director of the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd; Rajendra Kashyap, a former financial commissioner of the railway board; and a nominee from the department of economic affairs, who is yet to be named.

The development was reported on Tuesday in some newspapers, including the Economic Times.

Railway minister Sadanand Gowda, in his budget speech on 8 July, said the railway board had become unwieldy because of overlapping roles of policy formulation and implementation. Gowda emphasized the need for resource mobilization for the cash-strapped transporter.

The committee will look into reorganizing and restructuring the board and subsequently the department, estimate the financial needs of the railways and ensure framework and policies are in place to raise resources, both internally and from outside the government, to meet its future demands. The panel will also examine and suggest steps for setting up a Rail Tariff Authority.

“We know railways need to be fixed. Railways as a whole are integral to the development of the economy, they are part of the transport infrastructure," Debroy said. “We know that there have been several reports earlier on reforming the Indian railways in various forms and one of the first things we will do is to take stock of all of these earlier reports and see what we can use and what we need to incrementally add to them."

Several committees have been formed in the past to look into the problems of the Indian railways. These include the Sam Pitroda committee for modernisation of railways, the Anil Kakodkar committee on a safety review of railways and Rakesh Mohan committee on policy imperatives for reinvention and growth of railways.

The Kakodkar Committee criticised the lack of empowerment at the functional level for “inadequate performance" of the railways; the Pitroda committee said is was important for the railways to mobilize substantial additional funding, strengthen human resources and revamp its organizational structures.

The Mohan committee too said restructuring the railways was imperative for accelerating the growth of the network’s revenues.

“Much more action-oriented focus is what is required because it is easy to come out with obvious recommendations, which has happened in the past, but nobody is able to implement it," said Amrit Pandurangi, senior director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd.

“The committee should not necessarily start looking at the big issues and come out with big solutions that may not be very implementable but do what is possible even if it is incremental, even if it is small measures that can show some demonstrable benefits," he added. “The second most important issue is of railways’ huge capital needs especially for modernisation. Somebody has to say how it can be made possible."

The committee has been set up for a one-year period.

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