PMO upset with Prabhu and Chair Railway Board
The contents of the letter are indeed damning for the railway ministry. Written by Nipendra Mishra, Principal Secretary to the PM to the Railway Board Chairman AK Mittal, it addresses the ministry’s inability to achieve many of the targets that it had set itself over the last two years. Key among them was a promise to achieve “modernisation of facilities in railways” which, as the letter suggests, has not happened so far.
“You are aware of the focus of the government towards development and modernisation of facilities in railways,” Mishra tells Mittal in the letter.
“While reviewing the progress up to 2016, against the target of 1500 km of doubling, only 531 km has been achieved. In electrification, against the target of 2000 RKM, only 1,210 km has been achieved by railways,” it states.
Doubling is laying another set of tracks on the same route. It serves the purpose of easing congestion on those sections which have ample traffic but low availability of tracks.
The PMO’s displeasure with the railways is so high that Mishra also warns Mittal through the letter that the railways needs to “justify higher allocation in the next budget”. In this year’s Rail Budget, the railways had received an impressive Rs 1,31,000 crore from the Finance Ministry. This was much more than what other transport ministries such as road and civil aviation had received.
The year 2016 was one of the worst years for the Railways as far as train accidents went.
Experts say most of the accidents took place on heavily congested routes allegedly due to rail fracture, which happens when the track is overused without proper maintenance. It is for these busy routes that doubling is most important and experts have time and again pointed out the need for more doubling in railways.
So far the Railways Ministry, according to the PMO, has not used its resources well. The letter speaks of the government’s displeasure over the ministry, “crowding its expenditure for the last quarter”.
According to sources, nearly 50 per cent of the planned expenditure by the ministry remains unused in the early quarters and the railways only starts using them by the last quarter. The letter makes it clear that railways should ensure that there is no crowding of expenditure, “as that slows down the pace of implementation in the first quarter of the next annual budget”.
It isn’t just the PMO that is annoyed by what it is sees as a lack of urgency by the Railway Ministry to perform. Sources reveal that even Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has also been asking the ministry to focus on its core work — that of running trains safely and modernising facilities in the railways. more