Setting the ball rolling to professionalise Indian Railways, the Prime Minister’s Office has asked the railway board to draw a concrete action plan based on the recommendations of the Bibek Debroy committee, which, among other far-reaching reforms, suggested opening the sector for private participation.
“The process has started to implement the recommendations of the Debroy panel,” a source with knowledge on the development told FE.
The report of the committee for mobilisation of resources for major railway projects and restructuring of the railway ministry and railway board, was submitted to the ministry of railways on June 12.
The committee, headed by Bibek Debroy, member of the NITI Aayog, recommended allowing private players to run trains and mooted the creation of three distinct entities (ministry of railways, railway board and an independent regulator) and scrapping of the rail budget. It, however, did not recommend privatisation of the cash-strapped transporter.
The panel has recommended that subsidised tickets be linked to Aadhaar IDs to curb leakages. This would, in effect, result in the central government showing the subsidies on railway fares in the general budget — and the state governments will have to bear their part for suburban trains.
Indian Railways, which carries over 23 million passengers everyday, is suffering from severe congestion, financing constraints and an outdated accounting system.
The panel suggested commercial accounting as a viable solution for managing the railway finances.
The recommendations made by the committee have faced strong opposition from the railway employees unions.
With many of the unions believing that the recommendations made by the Debroy committee are for the privatisation of railways, the joint committee of railway federations/associations in a letter to the minister of railways opposed key reforms like the setting up of an independent regulator, privatisation of security, separation of the ministry and railway board and access to private players in train operation.