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High Vacancies, Over-Utilised Lines, Pending Projects, But Govt Adamant on Privatising Railways

Despite the government’s intent to withdraw, it has received a cold response from the private sector on offers to operate mail and express trains and received only two bids so far.
High Vacancies, Over-Utilised Lines, Pending Projects, But Govt Adamant on Privatising Railways

Image Courtesy: IE

There are over 1.5 lakh vacancies for Group 'C' posts in the Indian Railways, according to the data presented in the Lok Sabha by Rail Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday, March 16. The minister said that between the years 2016-2017, there have been 2,94,687 vacancies in posts that are filled through Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs) in 21 regions and Zonal Railways.

Out of these, recruitment against 1,53,974 vacancies have been completed, and the recruitment process for 1,40,713 vacancies against three Centralised Employment Notifications (CENs) is at the examination stage. However, the minister clarified that no time limit was prescribed for the declaration of results in the CENs.

While on the one hand there is a large number of vacancies, slow recruitments, lack of staff, on the other hand, the line capacity utilisation is higher than 100% for 25% of the line sections across the country. Out of 1416 sections across 16 zones, the line capacity utilisation is between 100-120% for 190 sections, between 120-150% for 120 sections, and higher than 150% for 55 sections.

When asked about the number of pending projects in the ministry, which are lagging behind the schedule, the minister said that as of April 1, 2021, 484 railway projects (187 new lines, 46 gauge conversion and 251 doublings) of 51,165 km length, costing approximately Rs 7.53 lakh crore were in different stages of planning, sanction, and execution, out of which 10,638 km length had been commissioned. An expenditure of approximately Rs 2.14 lakh crore had been incurred in March 2021.

The minister, however, informed the Lok Sabha that the Indian Railways had prepared a National Rail Plan (NRP) for India. "The Plan is to create a 'future ready' Railway system by 2030. The NRP aims to formulate strategies based on operational capacities and commercial policy initiatives to increase the modal share of the Railways in freight to 45%. The Plan's objective is to create capacity ahead of demand, which in turn would also cater to future growth in demand right up to 2050 and increase the modal share of Railways to 45% in freight traffic and to continue to sustain it," he said.

Despite the poor state of infrastructure, lack of staff, over-utilisation of lines, and many pending projects, the Union government has been adamant about leasing out operations of the Indian Railways operations through the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP). Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Nirmala Sitharaman, launched the asset monetisation pipeline of Central ministries and public sector entities, NMP. The pipeline has been developed by the NITI Aayog, in consultation with infrastructure line ministries, based on the mandate for 'Asset Monetisation' under Union Budget 2021-22. NMP estimates aggregate monetisation potential of Rs 6.0 lakh crores through core assets of the Central government, over four years, from FY 2022 to FY 2025.

The top 5 sectors (by estimated value) capture approximately 83% of the aggregate pipeline value. These top 5 sectors are Roads (27%) followed by Railways (25%), Power (15%), oil & gas pipelines (8%), and Telecom (6%). According to the NMP, the rail ministry's assets worth Rs 1,52,496 will be monetised between 2022 and 2025, including 400 stations, 90 passenger trains, 265 railway owned good-sheds (21% of total good-sheds), 15 railway stadiums, and selected railway colonies.

However, in September 2021, during a two-day review undertaken by cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, the Railways ministry informed that it had received a cold response from the private sector on offers to operate mail and express trains and received only two bids, including from a public sector unit within the railways to run two of the 12 of the planned hubs.

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