Railway finances off track, why is railway going slow on defaulters?
Rising inflation, falling rupee, rising home loans, fuel hike and an indication coming from railways of a passenger fare hike. Can the UPA II get it more wrong? A passenger fare hike suggested by a junior railway minister may be political harakiri of the UPA, but with long list of pending projects and a much needed upgradation of coaches and bogies is the need of the hour. But can the railway actually do some smart calculations to get its finances in shape.
India's biggest transporter the Indian railways have been grappling with multiple ailments over the last few years. The turnaround story of UPA 1 by the former Railway Minister Lalu Yadav has now become a sordid tale of corruption and nepotism. If the unceremonious exit of Pawan Bansal on charges of bribery wasn't embarrassing enough the railway's highest decision making body the railway board is now finding itself in the midst of another turmoil. A power tussle to control the railway projects and tendering purse on the top. The post of the chairman of railway board which has been vacant for months.
What's worse is the railways failure in generating money from quarters it can and which is legitimately overdue. For example in 2011, CNN-IBN broke the story on how railways had show-caused some companies accused of freight evasion. Then in 2013 we had shown how 7 demand notices were sent to companies in West Bengal, including the Rashmi group, which was accused of evading freight rates to the tune of 1100 crores alone.
Two years later it's clear that railways is losing crores of revenue to freight evasions by such companies that transport iron ore by stating it's for domestic purpose while it actually transports it for export usage. The relevant railways circular very categorically says that any company exporting the ore meant for domestic consumption shall be blacklisted, however the railways is still transporting their materials.
The case is now being investigated by the CBI which had registered the FIR in the month of January 2012, but no chargesheet has been filed by the investigating agency as yet. Besides Rashmi Cement the South Eastern Railways had sent similar notices to other companies such as Neo Metaliks Ltd, Haldia Steel, MB Ispat Corporation Ltd as well. The mis-declaration from one zone of the railways alone standing at a whopping 1700 Crore.
The CAG has now taken cognizance of the rail freight scam and recently noted that the railways in collusion with the private companies did not comply with regulations in order to allot rakes for transportation of iron ore at domestic rates. The scam which is still under investigation already is glaring at a staggering figure of 17,000 crores out of which a significant portion is from the south eastern railways.
The question is Why is the Indian Railways not going after all the other evaders in other zones? Why is it not investigating 2011-12, when freight differential was at the maximum? Will it not add to the booty the railway needs to get itself on track.