NEW DELHI: Expectations are high as Ashwani Lohani, known for the turnaround in Madhya Pradesh tourism corporation, takes over as Chairman Railway Board on Thursday.
Lohani has been given the reins of the railway board at a time when railway has been rattled by recent train accidents, especially due to human error. Lohani now has a herculean task ahead of managing huge subsidy in passenger fare with 2019 Lok Sabha elections in sight and simultaneously working to upgrade railway infrastructure to make railway journeys safer.
A 1980 railway mechanical engineer services officer, Lohani, 58, is known for his 'go getter attitude' in the railway ministry and thus now all eyes will be on him that whether he would be able to turnaround the ailing government run transporter like his successful stints at the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) during the previous NDA government and MP tourism. Lohani is set to retire in December 2018.
Former Chairman Railway Board A K Mital getting an extension of two-year in July 2016 had taken everyone by surprise. That time too Lohani was said to be the top contender for the job.
Ministry of Railways in its proposed list of officers for CRB sent in 2016 had included Lohani’s name among other officers and this time also his name was on the top,” said a senior railway ministry officer.
Lohani’s appointment should specially be seen in the context of Prime Minister’s Office flagging concerns over slow pace of progress in railways so far and he will now have a task to bring a change in railways.
His appointment as CMD Air India in September 2015 had taken many by surprise as his previous appointment as Chief Administrative Officer, IROAF (Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuels) was considered a punishment appointment. But even during that stint he led the programme of introducing solar panels on roof of trains.
He has also served as chief mechanical engineer, Northern Railway, Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi and Director, National Rail Museum among others.
Air India under Lohani had for the first time claimed to have made profits in 2016 but it was later proved wrong by a CAG report.
Holding a Limca Book of Records for acquiring four engineering degrees at age of 21, his interests are versatile and have authored two books, Smoking Beauties and Winning at Work. He is also a Guinness world record holder for successfully running the Fairy Queen Engine, certified as the world’s oldest working locomotive, in 1998.