Debroy panel wants Railways to embrace liberalisation

An official committee, headed by NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy, has recommended a whole set of reforms, including entry of private players into the Railways, and separation of offline activities from the core business.

  • The committee has said that there is a need to explore varied methods of financing and also increase utilisation of available resources.

Important recommendations made by the committee:

  • It has proposed separation of activities like running of hospitals, schools, catering, real estate development, manufacturing of locomotives, coaches and wagons from the core business of running trains.
  • The committee has said that state governments should be asked to entirely fund the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the general managers should have the freedom to choose between private security guards and RPF for security on trains.
  • It has recommended establishment of an independent regulator — Railway Regulatory Authority of India. It lays down a five-year roadmap to evolve a statutory rail regulator, scrap the Rail Budget and make room for more players in an “open access” regime which turns the Railways into just another train-service provider in the country.
  • The panel says that the Regulator will work under the policy framed by the Ministry, while the present Railway Board will become a board of Indian Railways — the government-run operator — alone. The Regulator can recommend fare revisions but these will not be binding on the Railway Ministry leaving scope, presumably, for the political dispensation of the day to take a call.
  • The report envisages the creation of a Railway Ministry eventually with at least three Secretary-level officers to lay down policy for the rail sector.

Sources: The Hindu, IE.

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