In a significant move to cut the bureaucratic straglehold, the Indian Railways will soon unveil a statutory authority on the lines of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, that will comprise professionals drwan from the corporate sector and elsewhere, to fix passenger fares and freight rates, determine safety measures and monitor the overall functioning of the country’s largest transporter.
The railway ministry will soon place the draft proposal for setting up such an authority in the public domain prior to seeking parliamentary approval early next year. “The authority will be an independent body consisting of professionals drawn from outside the bureaucratic world. It will have a mandate over passenger fares and freight, besides addressing safety issues. The authority will also have oversight over all the projects executed under the public-private-partnership (PPP) mode,” a source said, adding that members of the authority will not be those retiring from the Railways but competent professionals from all sectors who have a proven record.
The proposed authority will have a position in between the government and the Railway Board, with the power to recommend action. “The recommendations will not be binding, but the Railway Board will have to act on the advice given by the authority. The authority will have a semblance of autonomy to function independently without political interference, and also enough standing to keep the bureaucracy within the Railways on a tight leash,” the source added.
The authority will also have the power to monitor the functioning of the Railway Board and various directorates under the railway ministry. “The idea has dawned on the NDA government that the bureaucratic setup cannot match the pace desired to give results, and, hence it is necessary to bring in people from outside to accelerate the pace of development,” a source noted. The authority will also enable the government to deregulate passenger fares and freight charges, that has always been a sensitive issue for the political leadership.