The allegations of a `10-crore bribery deal for a place on the Railway Board has raised doubts over the way the country’s largest public transport system works.
According to the CBI, Mahesh Kumar, who joined the Board as the member (staff) on May 1, wanted a seat at the high table as the member (electrical). He was assured by Railway Minster Pawan Kumar Bansal’s nephew Vijay Singla, now arrested, that he would have to wait a few more days before the post fell vacant.
The Ministry denied any wrong doing in Mahesh’s appointment, saying that no officer had been superseded and that no such post was vacant on the Board. Any appointment to the Board is recommended by the Railway Minister and is later approved by the Cabinet Committee of Appointments headed by the Prime Minister. But as the precedent goes, the Minister’s recommendations are seldom questioned by the Committee.
As the member (staff), Mahesh looked after the affairs of railway personnel, the RPF and the medical wing. But as the member (electrical), he would have overseen big-ticket projects like the `2500-crore train collision avoidance system and the proposed introduction of high-speed trains, with each coach costing over `150 crore. The Kolkata metro and railway track electrification are two areas currently handled by the member (electrical). The post is likely to fall vacant after the incumbent Kulbhusan becomes the next Board chairman in July. The Board consists of a chairman and seven members in mechanical, traffic, engineering, electrical, staff and finance commissioner categories.
The CBI said Mahesh also wanted to retain the post of GM (Western Railways) till being made the member (electrical). In his earlier stints, his name even figured in the Guinness Book of World Records for commissioning the largest route relay interlocking in the world at the Old Delhi Railway Station in shortest possible time of 36 hours.