Allow private players, have independent regulator: Railway Panel
New Delhi: In series of far-reaching suggestions, a high-level panel has recommended entry of private players and setting up an independent regulator in the Indian Railways among other proposals in its report submitted to the government today.
Set up to propose ways to revamp Railways, the Bibek Debroy Committee, formed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last September, also stressed on the need for the national carrier to hive off from operations like running schools and hospitals.
In its final report to the Railway Board, the Committee noted that if the roadmap suggested by it was implemented in next five years, there would be no need for a separate Railway Budget.
The panel headed by Niti Aayog member said it is not recommending privatisation of Railways by means of sale of equity but endorses private entry with the provision of an independent regulator.
For open access of other players, it has recommended separation of track construction operation, train operation and rolling stock production units under separate entities. The over 300-page report said that private sector participation in Railways has been unsubstantial as compared to other sectors like roads, civil aviation and telecom.
The committee said one of the primary reasons is that a single organisation is dealing with policy making, operations and regulations.
Seeking to provide the private sector a level playing field, the report has recommended setting up of a Railway Regulatory Authority of India—a statutory, quasi-judicial, independent body with a separate budget.
The regulator will be mandated to fix freight rates, resolve disputes and set technical standards. Pointing out the core role of the Indian Railways is to run trains, the report said operations like running schools and hospitals should be hived off.
It said Railway employees can be provided subsidy in sending their children to kendriya vidyalayas. It also recommended subsidies in private hospitals based on CGHS framework.
On the issue of Railway Protection Force, it said it too should be delinked from Railways' principal task of running trains.
The panel said decision-making should be decentralised so that divisional and zonal managers are empowered to take decisions quickly.
On the issue of security being provided by Government Railway Police, it said the state governments should be asked to bear the entire expenditure of the force.
The panel, officially named Committee for mobilisation of resources for major railway projects and restructuring of Railway Ministry and Railway Board, also included former Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, former National Stock Exchange MD Ravi Narain, former Proctor and Gamble CMD Gurcharan Das, former Railway official R Kashyap and Centre for Policy Research's Partha Mukhopadhyay.
It had submitted an interim report in March. The Railway Ministry will study the report before forwarding it to the Prime Minister's Office.