Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is changing the tracks set by his predecessor, Suresh Prabhu. After overhauling the Rs 1-lakh crore station redevelopment plan, Goyal has now spiked two pet schemes and directorates set up by his predecessor.
The Railway Board has decided to wind up the ambitious Rs 5,000-crore One ICT (information, communication and technology) plan and the transformation cell.
Prabhu had set up four directorates during his tenure as the railway minister — mobility, non-fare revenue, One ICT and the transformation cell.
The One ICT directorate was created to set up an integrated software that would have brought various functions of the Railways — such as passenger reservation, movement of goods trains, asset management and the entire functional requirements of the national transporter — under one roof.
The transformation cell directorate was mandated with the implementation of 55 new ideas that had originated at the Rail Vikas Shivir, held in November last year, where rail employees shared their visionary ideas in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The railway board has decided to shut ICT and merge the transformation cell with mobility,” confirmed a railway official. Officials said the new minister was of the opinion that these areas were already being covered by other directorates, including non-fare revenue and mobility, and there was no requirement for a separate department.
Prabhu had set up the ICT directorate with a view that an organisation like the railways, which posted a revenue of Rs 1,65,068 crore in 2016-17, should spend a considerable amount of money on information, communication and technology. The railway information technology expenditure was only Rs 336 crore in 2016-17, which was scaled up to Rs 513 crore in the 2017-18.
The Rs 5,000-crore One ICT software was supposed to be implemented over five years using digital technology. It was to ensure better connectivity of goods and services with the market and efficient internal management to ensure customer satisfaction.
Revamping the railways, Goyal had earlier decided to cancel the bidding process for 23 stations for redevelopment owing to tepid interest shown by construction companies.
He had also wound up the Swiss challenge mode for redevelopment (under which a public authority asks for a bid, and publishes it for third parties to match or top it), which was mooted by Prabhu.
Such changes in policies are normal when there is a change in government. But railway officials are experiencing this situation for the first time when only the minister has been changed.
“For Goyal, the priority is implementation of schemes in a quick pace. He is giving additional emphasis on renewal of tracks and safety and has instructed the Railway Board to allot the required money for each division in this regard,” said another official.