Goodbye Rail Budget

Mr Kumar's “punishment posting” may have grounded this high-flier's career, for now at least.

Update: 2016-08-20 22:20 GMT
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. (Photo: PTI)

From next year there will be no separate Rail Budget, ending a long British-era practice. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s progressive proposal to merge his ministry’s budget with the general Budget has caused much consternation among rail babus. Although over the years there have been many cogent arguments to dispense with the Rail Budget, no minister has actually taken the bull by the horns until Mr Prabhu came along.

Though clearly one of Mr Prabhu’s innovative measures to breathe new life into the ageing behemoth, the move is being touted as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda for economic reforms. For now, a five-member committee has been set up to work out the modalities of the proposed merger and its report is expected by this month-end.

The merger move is significant as it is expected to have political implications. It has been seen that almost every railway minister, particularly in coalition governments, has addressed his constituencies by doling out favours by way of new trains and projects. But if the merger happens, the ministry will lose much of its sheen, and so will its babus. Which explains the air of uneasy disquiet in Rail Bhavan’s corridors.

Babus be warned

In the past two years, the Centre has reportedly sent back 62 IAS officers of the rank of joint secretary to their parent cadres for various reasons, of which at least one misdemeanour is trying to politically influence transfers and postings in Central ministries and departments.

Though the neta-babu nexus is recognisable as one of the more obvious traits of the Indian bureaucracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known to have a vigorous disdain for those bureaucrats who try to use “connections” to work their way through the system. According to sources, the Prime Minister’s Office recently issued a communique to all concerned ministries and departments warning that “appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against those who violate instructions”.

This particular communique, sources say, was triggered by a complaint received by the PMO about at least two senior officials who allegedly influenced postings through an MP. Apparently, the PMO has also received a clutch of complaints in the transfer of senior income-tax officers.

Though well intentioned, it remains to be seen how this communique from the PMO will halt this well-entrenched neta-babu nexus in its tracks.

Babus paying the price in U.P.

The effects of the ongoing tussle within the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh have inevitably trickled down to the state bureaucracy. With chief minister Akhilesh Yadav now openly aligned against his own uncle and party state PWD minister Shivpal Yadav, it is the bureaucrats who are facing the brunt of the schism within the party.

One result of the power struggle is that senior IAS officer Pravir Kumar, who was chairman of Noida, Greater Noida and CEO of Yamuna Expressway, has been transferred to the relatively minor position of chairman of the state Road Transport Corporation. His earlier charges have been handed over to Sanjay Agarwal, who was earlier principal secretary for energy and infrastructure.

Observers say that Mr Kumar was perceived to be close to the Akhilesh Yadav camp, and therefore, earned the ire of Mr Shivpal Yadav. Mr Kumar happens to have become collateral damage in the Yadav infighting. Though a truce has apparently been declared and things are “back to normal” no one is willing to wager how long it will last. But

Mr Kumar’s “punishment posting” may have grounded this high-flier’s career, for now at least.


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