NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways is likely to rename the Railway Regulatory Authority as the Railway Development Authority and widen its ambit by making the body to undertake various developmental activities besides fixing freight rates and passenger fares.
The suggestion has come directly from Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, who had said that the regulator’s functions should include laying down the framework for monitoring of passenger and freight tariffs, Public Private Partnership projects and efficiency.
A senior Railway ministry official said that there was a proposal to change the nomenclature from Railway Regulatory Authority to Railway Development Authority and make it broad-based. The Railways will seek suggestions from all stakeholders, including the general public, on constitution as well as widening the functioning of the authority.
The official said the draft of regulatory authority is ready and it will be circulated soon to seek views from all concerned. Besides the task of suggesting freight and passenger fares, there will be additional responsibilities with the body as well, he added. At present, fixing tariffs is the Railway Board’s job. Historically, political dispensations have prevailed over the Board to stall moves for tariff revision, fearing political backlash.
According to the new plan, the Railways will constitute the authority as an independent body, to decide passenger fares and freight rate, as a shift of regulatory responsibility from the government to an independent regulator is required to attract private investments. The final draft of the proposal will be tabled in Parliament for approval.
The Indian Railways is currently under strain because of lack of investment in critical areas and a decline in passenger bookings. The recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations have also added a significant burden on its finances. The Railways will seek the help of finance ministry to address the issue of pay panel burden.