NEW DELHI: Zonal heads of the Indian Railways, divided into 17 parts, are dummies with little or no power to take major decisions concerning their zones. Some of the divisional railway managers (DRMs) have the liberty to sanction as little as Rs 5,000 for various approvals.
The Railway Board not only formulates policies, but is also actively associated in day-to-day operations and other affairs of 17 zonal Railways, which is so over-centralised that executive powers adversely affect output at the divisional level. As per the observations of the recently released safety report by Anil Kakodkar, the present setup is very conservative and lacks dynamism in a buzzing sector like Railways.
To start with, the post of a zonal head is given to anyone with little exposure to safety related issues of a train operation, while the dynamic job demands a person with some background in operations or the technical side as the divisional unit is the one in the direct know-how of all the trains running in the region.
Divisional managers need to approach their zones even for ratification of some of the processes and procedures to be followed for facilitating operation and maintenance of the assets within the allocated budget. Feedback received from 14 divisions of 9 zonal Railways on their financial powers showed that the DRMs had no power to decide on the procedure such as spot purchase committee, single/limited tenders etc for execution of work or procurement of stores, for operation and maintenance of assets under them.
“For example, powers to procure safety related stock and non-stock items vary from `5,000 to 3 lakh; powers to accept tenders of safety related works vary from `4 cr to `8 cr; powers to sanction works under safety related plan heads vary from `5 lakh to `30 lakh and powers to appoint spot purchase committee varies from ‘nil’ on most of the divisions to Rs 40 lakh,” the report sighted.Getting an approval from the finance department of Railways is by far the most tedious process with divisions not empowered to spend even the allocated grant in their jurisdiction. Even if the general manager has been allocated a certain power, the same has been withdrawn by the Railway Board through administrative directives.