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Reform Railways, the China way
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Reform Railways, the China way

Reform Railways, the China way

Sudheendra Kulkarni in ‘The Sunday Express’ on Jun 26 2011

Whenever comparisons are made between India and China to show how our northern neighbour has galloped ahead of us in many areas of development, my mental response is straightforward. I applaud the fraternal people of China and their government for their achievements. After all, their achievements add to the collective progress of humanity. At the same time, the patriot in me asks in agony: Why are we as a nation failing again and again to pursue a big national vision? Why are our political leaders unable and unwilling to look beyond their narrow party or personal interests, frittering away our national energies in constant and corrosive fights?

The newest trigger for this introspective thought is China’s latest staggering achievement. On July 1, when China’s communist party celebrates its 90th anniversary, its leadership will formally open bullet-train service from Beijing to Shanghai. It covers 1,460 km in five hours flat. Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani Express takes 15 hours to traverse 1,380 km. There will be 90 bullet trains a day in each direction—one every 15 minutes. By next year, China will have built 13,000 km of high-speed rail connecting several cities, more than the rest of the world combined. Train travel in China is becoming nearly as comfortable and pleasurable as air travel. The newly built railway stations in Chinese cities are comparable to the best airports in the world. Doubt it? Visit the Beijing West railway station on the Internet. It is as much of an attraction for foreign tourists as the Beijing airport, the world’s largest, or ‘Bird’s Nest’, the iconic Olympic stadium.

India hasn’t built a single world-class railway station since Independence. Our grandest rail terminus, Mumbai’s VT station, now renamed after Shivaji, is an inheritance from the British period. To know how badly this UNESCO world heritage structure and its environs have been treated by railway and city authorities, just take a stroll around and inside the station. Sadly, renaming places and institutions represents the farthest limit of the vision and valour of Maharashtra’s querulous and votebank-focussed politicians. Now, they are clamouring to rename Dadar station after ‘Chaityabhoomi’, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Samadhi. Meanwhile, Dadar, the most crowded suburban station in the world, continues to be ugly, unsafe and intolerably uncomfortable. Indeed, suburban rail travel during peak hours in India’s commercial capital is a bone-breaking experience. Each year over 3,000 people are killed on Mumbai’s railway tracks, but who in Delhi’s and Mumbai’s corridors of power cares? Rahul Gandhi—the ‘yuvraj’ who is certain to be made a ‘raja’ by his party before the next parliamentary elections—had a photo-op travelling in Mumbai’s local train last year, presumably to show how the royalty’s heart beats for the aam aadmi. But Rail Yatri Rahul has not articulated a single big idea so far on improving Mumbai’s suburban services, or, for that matter, the railway network in the country as a whole. O hapless and leaderless India, where are your visionary nation-builders?

Railways were introduced in India (1853) before they came to China (1876). In 1947, India had 53,396 km of railway network. Mainland China had only 27,000 km, half of it in Manchuria. By 2010, India’s network had expanded to only 64,000 km, and is growing at just 400 km per year. In contrast, China’s network last year was 100,000 km, and will grow to 120,000 km by 2020. It carries five times more freight tonnage than Indian Railways. The average speed of our freight trains is 26 kmph. China regularly runs heavy-haul freight trains at 120 kmph. In just three years, China has invested $300 billion (nearly 14 lakh crore rupees!) into its railways. India’s annual capital expenditure is 1/20th of that amount. Do our netas know how much their ignorance, incompetence and cheap populism is costing India in terms of employment generation, wealth creation and environmental degradation?

To change this situation, here are 10 suggestions for Dr Manmohan Singh, who now has the railway portfolio with him. 1) Please make railway reforms, as part of an overarching national mass transportation policy, one of your highest priorities. 2) Don’t give the railway ministry to anyone; drive it from the PMO. 3) Stop having a separate railway budget. 4) Disband the Railway Board. Corporatise and decentralise Indian Railways. 5) Liberate our talented railway officials from the insular ‘cadre’ mentality and give them attractive new opportunities for career development, as has happened in the telecom sector. 6) Take railway unions into confidence, convincing them that reforms will create more jobs. 7) Introduce farsighted policies that open the floodgates of private investment and public-private partnerships into expansion and modernisation of railways. If India’s private sector companies can create world-class airports and airlines, if they can build world-class highways, they can also, in collaboration with restructured Indian Railways entities, build new tracks, new stations, and better passenger and freight train services. 8) Begin by hiving off Mumbai’s suburban railway system into a separate corporation, with a mandate to run both the existing network and the state government’s proposed metro system under a unified command. We already have an excellent proof-of-concept in Delhi Metro led by E Sreedharan, a visionary. 9) Implement the Delhi-Mumbai Freight Corridor and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, two super-ambitious infrastructure projects, on war-footing. Please note that China built the Beijing-Shanghai bullet train service a year ahead of schedule. 10) Encourage Indian companies (including IRCON) to become better than the big MNCs like Bombardier and Siemens in railway technology, manufacture and infrastructure building.

Source Link: http://www.indianexpress.com

(IRTSA does not necessarily subscribe to all his views, but cordially invites comments to initiate a debate on some of the vital issues raised by him - GS IRTSA)

06-26-2011 01:19 PM
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asmath55
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Post: #2
RE: Reform Railways, the China way
Before I comment on the suggestions, I would like to know the following:
1. Who is Sri. Sudheendra Kulakrni?
2. What is his background(ideological/political affliations)?
3. What is his interest in Railways and why is he suggesting Reforms in Indian Railways?
06-26-2011 10:09 PM
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RE: Reform Railways, the China way
Sudheendra Kulkarni is an alumnus of IIT Bombay. He started his career as a journalist in the late 70s. He was also the editor of now defunct Blitz. After two decades in journalism, Kulkarni joined BJP in 1995. He was an aide to Prime Minister A B Vajpayee between 1998-2004. He later joined L K Advani as his aide. He was a national secretary and a national executive member of BJP. He quit BJP in last August. Kulkarni is now an adviser to the ministry of Railways. He is also a columnists for ' Indian Express '.

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main42.asp?...ivided.asp
06-27-2011 12:17 PM
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RE: Reform Railways, the China way

reforming the railways

looking beyond “vision 2020”

1. “Vision of Railways – 2020” presented to Parliament in December, 2009, by the Minister for Railways, Km. Mamata Banerjee, was a big step forward – not only towards the development of the Railways, but that of the Nation as a whole. It addressed four strategic national goals namely Inclusive development, both geographically and socially”; “Strengthening national integration”; “Large-scale generation of productive employment”; and “Environmental sustainability”.

2. IRTSA had fully endorsed the steps proposed in the “Vision 2020 of Railways” and held a number of seminars on it at National and Zonal levels in the last one and a half year. In fact, IRTSA had been seeking some of these steps over the last many years. IRTSA had presented - project reports, case studies and Memoranda on the subject - to the Railway Board, Government and to the President of India. Two of the major areas stressed upon by IRTSA, were - “Role & importance of Engineers in development and efficient running of Railways” and “Need for three fold increase in route kilometers from 66000 Km to 20,00,000 km in 20 years”. These were vital areas - essentially required to ensure equitable economic prosperity and development of the country; eliminate islands of poverty and to build National Integration.” It was heartening that some of our proposals found place in the “Vision 2020 of Railways”.

3. Many suggestions have also been given - about the Reforms required on the Indian Railways – including those by Railway Reforms Committee (RRC) and Railway Accident Inquiry Committees (RAIC). Some of the experts in the field have also given many suggestions through print and electronic media and in other Fora. But many of these proposals – including some of the recommendations of RRC & RAIC - did not find favour with the authorities that be. Consequently, growth and reforms of the Indian Railways have been marginalized to a minimal level as compared to some of the other countries in our neighbourhood and elsewhere in the world.

4. It is time that the Nation starts thinking beyond “Vision 2020 of Railways” without leaving the track laid down therein but rather expediting our speed to achieve its laid down targets in shorter spans – to make good for the time lost over the years. What we really need is to make some major structural changes required in the system as a whole as well as in our basic approach to growth and reforms on the Railways.

5. Senior Journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni, who is also an advisor to the Ministry of Railways at present, in his article in ‘The Sunday Express’ has given the following suggestions for Reform on the Railway. IRTSA does not agree with some of his proposals – especially those to Corporatise & Privatise the Railways, but some of his other suggestions addressed to the Prime Minister, do need his serious consideration and that of the Government as a whole – especially the Ministry of Railways; and these need to be implemented effectively and expeditiously in the larger interest of the Nation.

1) Make railway reforms, as part of an overarching national mass transportation policy.

2) Don’t give the railway ministry to anyone; drive it from the PMO.

3) Stop having a separate railway budget.

4) Disband the Railway Board. Corporatise and decentralise Indian Railways.

5) Liberate our talented railway officials from the insular ‘cadre’ mentality and give them attractive new opportunities for career development, as has happened in the telecom sector.

6) Take railway unions into confidence, convincing them that reforms will create more jobs.

7) Introduce farsighted policies that open the floodgates of private investment and public-private partnerships into expansion and modernisation of railways. If India’s private sector companies can create world-class airports and airlines, if they can build world-class highways, they can also, in collaboration with restructured Indian Railways entities, build new tracks, new stations, and better passenger and freight train services.

8) Begin by hiving off Mumbai’s suburban railway system into a separate corporation, with a mandate to run both the existing network and the state government’s proposed metro system under a unified command. We already have an excellent proof-of-concept in Delhi Metro led by E Sreedharan, a visionary.

9) Implement the Delhi-Mumbai Freight Corridor and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, two super-ambitious infrastructure projects, on war-footing.

10) Encourage Indian companies (including IRCON) to become better than the big MNCs like Bombardier and Siemens in railway technology, manufacture and infrastructure building.

As mentioned earlier some of these points merit serious consideration – while others are debatable. IRTSA has already started a debate on its Website http://www.irtsa.net regarding the reforms required on the Indian Railways – in our mission “TOWARDS IMPROVING PERFORMANCES ON RAILWAYS”. All are cordially invited to give their comments on these proposals and give their suggestions on the issue.

HARCHANDAN SINGH
General Secretary, IRTSA

06-28-2011 06:16 PM
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asmath55
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Post: #5
RE: Reform Railways, the China way
1) Make railway reforms, as part of an overarching national mass transportation policy.
What does he mean by Rly. Reforms?

2) Don’t give the railway ministry to anyone; drive it from the PMO.

Will PM be able to do justice to the Rly. Ministry?

3) Stop having a separate railway budget.
What is wrong having separate Rly. Budget?

4) Disband the Railway Board. Corporatise and decentralise Indian Railways.
Decentralisation is Ok. But, Corporatisation is a step towards privatization.

5) Liberate our talented railway officials from the insular ‘cadre’ mentality and give them attractive new opportunities for career development, as has happened in the telecom sector.
One hand, he wants Rly. Baord to be disbanded. Other hand, he praises Rly. Officials as talentd.

6) Take railway unions into confidence, convincing them that reforms will create more jobs.

Reforms, in bureaucractic sense, means surrendering of posts in lower Grades.

7) Introduce farsighted policies that open the floodgates of private investment and public-private partnerships into expansion and modernisation of railways. If India’s private sector companies can create world-class airports and airlines, if they can build world-class highways, they can also, in collaboration with restructured Indian Railways entities, build new tracks, new stations, and better passenger and freight train services.

Surely, he advocates privatization.

8) Begin by hiving off Mumbai’s suburban railway system into a separate corporation, with a mandate to run both the existing network and the state government’s proposed metro system under a unified command. We already have an excellent proof-of-concept in Delhi Metro led by E Sreedharan, a visionary.
This again, is a step towards privatization.

9) Implement the Delhi-Mumbai Freight Corridor and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, two super-ambitious infrastructure projects, on war-footing.

Alright.

10) Encourage Indian companies (including IRCON) to become better than the big MNCs like Bombardier and Siemens in railway technology, manufacture and infrastructure building.

What does he mean by encouragement?
06-28-2011 10:27 PM
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