Sunday, July 10, 2011

Do we really need a separate Rail Ministry?

The long railway tracks criss-crossing the entire nation from north to south, east to west are considered as the nerves of the country. Still it remains as the most popular mass transport mechanism for long distance journeys - a place which even the budget airlines are unable to achieve. At the same time as one writer pointed out  - it also remain as the biggest drainage channel in India.

But the question here is about the significance of a separate Railway Ministry. Do we need to continue the preparation and presentation of a separate Rail Budget every year, a ritual which started from the days of the Raj? Do we need a separate minister to read out the names and routes of new trains in the Parliament, which will any way ends up in accusations and counter accusations of favouritism. Will it make any difference if this news is published as an ad in the paper? Do we have to allow the pressure game to continue, where various groups putting pressure on the ministry to get new trains and (or) routes, so that the representatives can add something to their achievement sheet, even if their option is not a viable or profitable one. Isn't better to change the department to an independent entity where it can decide the priorities based on necessities rather than the whims and fancies? Still government can provide a framework and guidance for it to work.

Already the department is running with out a full time minister. At the time of Mamta - more occupied by the day-to-day affairs of West Bengal to achieve her dream  of sitting in Writer's Building - Rail Bhavan seldom saw their boss; after West Bengal elections Manmohan Singh government is yet to find a replacement. And now for the department running under the existing bureaucratic system.

The time already came for as to think about the use of a separate Railway Ministry with a separate Budget. Can't we merge it with Surface transport ministry and save the rail minister from reading out the number, name of new trains in the parliament?

PS: Now-a-days rail accidents are increasing, but people (including opposition) don't know whom to blame - an empty chair in the Rail Bhavan?


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