BY ANAND SINGH
New Delhi, June 22 (IANS) With the Indian Railways hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic as its traffic earnings are down by 58 per cent in the last three months till May, the national transporter has prepared an action plan to reduce expenditure that includes closure of uneconomical branch lines, grounding of diesel locomotives older than 31 years, reducing stationary cost by 50 per cent and others.
The action plan of the railways also plans to control expenditure drastically through various measures including cutting staff cost, reducing ticket counters among others. In a letter to all the zonal railways dated June 19, the Railways Executive Director, Finance (Budget) said that “as you all are aware that Railways have been mandated by the government to meet all of their revenue expenses including pension from own receipts.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown is however likely to adversely impact the budgeted earnings target of the current year. Railways traffic earnings to the end of May have already dropped by 58 per cent over COPPY,” it said.
In a 3-page letter to General Managers of all zones and production units on June 19, Railways Financial Commissioner Manjula Rangarajan suggested for exploring new areas of expenditure control and enhancement of earnings. In her letter emphasising on the strategy for freezing of new post creation except for safety related ones and curtailing the staff who are being re-engaged after retirement to save a substantial amount on account of salary bills as many are currently being re-hired across the country in railways.
In her letter, she further stressed the zones to review contracts, reduce energy consumption and cut costs in administrative and other areas. “Review of posts created in the last two years should be done and if recruitment has not been done against those posts, the same may be reviewed for surrendering, rationalisation of manpower in workshops. Time and motion study of workshops and production units for review of allowed time and incentives,” the letter said.
The financial commissioner also emphasised that all file work be moved to the digital sphere and advised that all correspondence must be done through secure e-mail. It also instructed the zones to reduce the use of stationery articles, cartridges and other items by at least 50 per cent and review and close all uneconomical branches of the ministry.
The Financial Commissioner described the annual inspection by the General Manager as a “big affair” and said that annual inspections should be a silent and low-key affair with the minimum number of staff required. The letter also said all outsourced activities such as on-board housekeeping, linen management, station cleaning, elevator and escalator manning, station announcement should be reviewed and curtailed and attempts should be made to get them done through corporate social responsibilities.
It also asked the zones to review the annual maintenance contracts with a view of reducing these to bare minimum and analysing the regular or recurring failures to introduce element of penalty for design flaws. The Financial Commissioner also asked the zonal railways to critically review the usage of the high speed diesel oil for other than traction purposes and discouraged. “No running of diesel under wire without approval from the General Manager, non traction energy consumption should be reduced by at least 25 per cent, energy audit of major load centres,” the letter read.
The officer stressed on shifting more trains to hotel load with conversion to head on generation to reduce consumption of diesel in power cars and strict monitoring of diesel savings due to this should be done.
To cut on expenditure, the officer said, “Review and closure of uneconomic branch lines to the extent possible.”
In view of the Covid-19 pandemic threat, the national transporter has suspended passenger, mail and express train services from March 25. The Railways started to operate the Shramik Special trains from May 1 to transport the stranded migrant workers, students, pilgrims and tourists and since then it has operated over 4,450 Shramik Special trains to ferry over 60 lakh people. The Railways also started operations of 15 pairs of special AC trains from May 12 and 200 time tabled trains from June 1.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)