Will the Indian Railways eventually meet the fate of state-run carrier Air India? Well yes, if the present incumbent holding the top job at the Rail Bhavan has his ways.
“The Indian Railways is on the brink of a financial collapse” and as insiders say it can be squarely attributed to Mukul Roy. The finances of the world’s second-largest mover of passengers and materials have been stretched to the extent that it could go into the red any moment.
Essential expenditure on safety has been held back as the Railways Minister has ‘very little’ time to deal with issues that are brought to his notice. Even after the Tamil Nadu Express fire in which 32 passengers died, a defiant Roy refused to step down. There have been no fare hikes in 10 years, even the hikes that was effected was rolled back with a minister losing his job (read Dinesh Trivedi) immediately after he read out the Rail Budget speech this year in the Parliament.
The sorry state of affairs is obvious from the fact that the Trinamool leaders, barring Dinesh Trivedi, have ignored the country, while spending more time strengthening their strategies for West Bengal.
On June 13, Roy was in Delhi, along with Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee, giving their diktats on the presidential nominations. Thereafter, Roy came back to Delhi and his ministry only on July 6 to sign an MoU with the Tourism Ministry for the clean India campaign. July 6 being a Friday, Roy had gone back to Kolkata for the weekend. Minister of State Bharat Solanki was in the US on a personal visit, while MoS KH Muniyappa held the fort in Delhi.
“With Roy, who spends most of the time with Mamata Banerjee, the ministry literally runs between Delhi and Kolkata. Files that need minister’s approval are flown to Kolkata. Crucial discussions of the Railway Board members with the minister happen in Kolkata. It is just an overnight journey by train. Board members are entitled to an exclusive salon coach, which is attached to the train departing for Kolkata in the evening at 6 pm and reaches Kolkata in the morning around 9 am. The officials then go back the same day and reach Delhi the next morning,” said a Railway official.
The Kakodkar Committee on safety has already pointed out the financial ill health of the Railways and has expressed serious concern at its safety requirements. Roy, though aware of what the Railways needs, has chosen to look the other way.
“There is no practice of independent safety regulation by an independent agency. The Railway Board has the unique distinction of being the rule maker, operator and the regulator, all wrapped into one. Commissioners of Railway Safety, though considered to be the safety watchdogs, have negligible role at the operational level. Compliance of the safety standards set by the Railways for themselves are often flouted for operational exigencies,” the committee had noted.
Meanwhile, Mukul Roy called the Nellore accident an act of sabotage, but was not prepared for commenting on other collisions that happened in north. The Bhatinda-Delhi Kissan Express train collision with a truck had resulted in derailment of the train engine and the collision of a mini bus with rail bus number 76601 at Ferozpur had killed four children.