Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do we need a Railway Minister?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The latest of the train tragedy involving Uttarbanga Express and Vananchal Express at Sainthia station has some of the common things associated with every railway accident in India. The opposition calling for the head of the Railway Minister, high profile visits to the site, promise of compensation (which doesn’t reach 90% of the people) and the usual setting up of the enquiry commission by the railways whose report will lie in some corner of one of the zonal headquarter of the Indian Railways.

The worst among all these is the mud slinging that politicians resort to in the hour of human crisis. This has been true cutting across party lines on whoever has been in power and opposition. Ram Vilas Paswan asked Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee to choose between Railways and West Bengal. BJP demanded for her resignation and the Congress just condoled the death of the victims trying its best not to anger one of its maverick allies. Such political flings in such tragic situations bring shame to everybody except our politicians.

The Railway Ministry is one of the cream portfolios in the Union Cabinet. It is more preferred by politicians of the backward states. It is no wonder that in the last 20 years barring a brief period of C. K. Jaffer Sheriff the ministry has been in the hands of Bihar politicians and Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal. It is the instrument to bring in cheer from the poor when their leaders have very little to offer on other parameters on the development index. Populist railway budgets have been common with Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav linking the village of his wife through the railways!

This brings us to the big question do we need a Railway Minister? Is a minister is so important to running the Indian Railways? It is a well known fact that no minister is directly involved with the functioning of the railways. It is the bureaucrats along with the employees of the railways who keep the system running. The Railway Minister is honorary head one of the side effects of our red tapism and socialistic growth in the first 40 years of our independence.

The Railway portfolio has become a victim of poor polity in our country. The politicians have more of vote banks to think of than development when it comes to running the Railways. The ministry can instead be run by a board which is nominated by the government and has retired people from the Railways. These people will have more knowledge about the system than a Mamata Banerjee, Ram Vilas Paswan or a Lalu Prasad Yadav does. In situations of crisis there will be less mud slinging and more of rescue operations.

If only we could have it this way, the railways would have been saved the ordeal of having turned into a political football.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP