Oct 13, 2016

Suresh Prabhu asks suggestions from employees and public to cut costs

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu had sought to know what an employee would do to improve the Railways if he was made minister for a day.

Over 13 lakh employees operate the vast Indian railway network round the clock, but the ministry is struggling to get actionable ideas to cut down expenses and improve its functioning.
Asking for Suggestions

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu had sought to know what an employee would do to improve the Railways if he was made minister for a day. The ministry has received over one lakh suggestions, most of which relate to cutting down expenses. The exercise was ideated by Prabhu who has been insisting on improving the work culture in the ministry. “Since the railways have a workforce of over 1.3 million, the railway minister sought suggestions from our employees. These employees are closely associated with the operation of the Railways and we have been expecting practical suggestions from them,” said a senior railway board official.

Cost Cutting and Revenue Leakage

According to officials, a number of employees have stressed on checking revenue leakage in the form of ticketless travelling and reducing expenses on purchase of diesel. For this, they have suggested complete electrification of the rail network, which officials said, was a long-term solution as it would require huge expenditure. Some suggested turning railway premises into closed areas like Delhi Metro and airports so as to check ticketless travelling. “Cost-cutting has been a key concern of most employees. We haven’t gone through all suggestions but they mostly relate to reducing expenditure. Expenditure on diesel is much more than electricity,” an official said.

Notably, the Railways spends Rs.18,000 crore annually on purchase of diesel. Interestingly, a number of employees have admitted that the department’s functioning was marred by rampant corruption but none of them suggested concrete measures to check the menace. Railway officials said that a detailed action plan will be chalked out after studying all suggestions, and a presentation will be given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Public Response

In a similar exercise, the Railways had earlier sought public response on cutting down expenses and increasing revenue. They had suggested railways to stop giving concessions to railway employees and MPs and MLAs on train journeys, particularly after a significant hike in their salaries and perks as recommended by the Seventh Pay Commission. They suggested that freebies given by the Railways caused a big loss to the exchequer. Every year, the Railways incurs huge expenditure on subsidy and concessions. It offers 43 per cent subsidy on a single train journey to passengers. Data shows the Railways incurred an expenditure of Rs.34,000 crore on ‘social service obligation’ for 2015-16. Of this, Rs.1,600 crore was spent on myriad concessions on train travels. This is in addition to the free journeys permitted to certain sections.

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