By Arushi Sharma
The Indian Railway Board, the apex decision-making body of the Indian Railways, is expected to go through a major restructuring move in the coming days. The exercise is likely to affect nearly 500 board officials. The decision, initiated by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, has come as a result of the full board meeting which was conducted on January 29.
How will the plan be implemented?
About 500 officers, ranging from directors and executive directors to additional members and principal executive directors, will be posted out of Rail Bhawan in Delhi and placed in different zonal headquarters and divisions across the country. According to a report by the Times of India, nearly hundred officials have already received their orders. The Railway Minister had announced a similar decision to transfer ninety Railway Board officers back in October 2017.
The decision to trim the size of the Board is also meant to delegate a wide range of powers and responsibilities to the field level. This can very well be viewed as a decentralisation of substantial financial, administrative, and operational powers to the officers who would be deployed in different divisions throughout the country.
The possible benefits
As the senior officials are stationed in the field, the public service obligation aspect of the Indian Railways will be bolstered. Not only will the operational efficiency improve as a result of their skills and experience, but the promise of enhanced customer service and safety will also be strengthened.
As the all-powerful policymaking wing of the Indian Railways, the Railway Board has so far been less involved in the implementation and logistics. A lean Board would take care of this while simultaneously confining and refining the core task of policymaking. A top-heavy structure runs the risk of growing into an overly centralised and departmentalised organisation, which can lead to setting up of narrow goals that are far from the overall benefits of the organisation. The Railway Board could, thus, do better with a smaller team for carrying out the advisory functions.
Human capital restructuring: A boon for efficiency
The Indian Railways employs about 1.34 million people and the wage bill constitutes nearly half of its working expenses. Therefore, it cannot afford to bear the losses of overstaffing. It has been reiterated time and again that it is necessary to relook and redefine the organisational structure of the Indian Railways to prevent it from becoming a burden on the national economy.
A human capital strategy is defined as a corporation’s modus operandi in relation to the ranks of the human resources so that they can contribute better to the vision and objectives of the corporation. The step to cut the flab of the overstaffed Board is also an application of a human capital strategy.
The Indian Railways is a mass service provider and the plan to increase the on-ground participation of senior-level officers would match up the personnel to the Board’s strategic needs. The zonal offices would serve almost as the program management offices of the Board, supporting trusted customer relationships, stakeholder awareness, and efficiency improvements.
Fast-tracking the overall working of the Indian Railways
The behemoth system of the Indian Railways runs about 19,000 trains and carries nearly 24 million passengers every day on its 65,000-kilometre tracks. It cannot be denied that the performance of the Indian Railways has seen a long jump since 1950-51 in terms of the number of trains and carrying capacity. However, there still remains a wide gap between the supply-side improvements and the demand side expectations so far as the quality of services is concerned. Moreover, the hundreds of deaths due to train accidents each year are an indication that the safety aspect needs attention.
The procedures, practices, and work cultures within the country’s rail machinery have remained stuck in a time warp since Independence. Therefore, the new restructuring initiative comes as a welcome step in whittling down the bureaucratic architecture. As the transferred officers take charge, the decentralisation must be implemented in a way that they are sufficiently empowered to handle all tenders connected with works and stores procurement as well as the revenue-earning commercial tenders pertaining to their divisions. Going forward, the reshuffle should truly transform the zonal and divisional offices into independent business units.
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