Seeking a “comprehensive change” in the national transporter’s functioning, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda today said it “stands much behind in efficiency, punctuality, cleanliness and services”, and warned senior officials to “perform or perish”.
“Indian Railways carries the largest number of passengers and freight, but we stand much behind in our efficiency, punctuality, cleanliness and services.
“You all need to be innovative and find solutions to these issues. Conventional thinking and present style of functioning will not help us achieve anything,” Gowda said at a conference of General Managers and Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs).
“Normally, the tendency is to come out with replies and excuses for non-performance which will not be tolerated by our government,” he stressed.
Without mincing words, Gowda made it clear that the present government’s mantra is performance and people want immediate results.
“Though we plan for five years, we need to start producing results as soon as possible. Our government’s mantra is either perform or perish. This is applicable from the last employee of Railway up to the Board,” Gowda said.
“As senior officers at cutting-edge level, you are leaders and leader always finds ways to go forward, otherwise leader cannot be a leader. People want immediate and visible changes in the performance of the Railways.
People had given clear mandate to this government headed by Narendra Modi and his team and they represent people’s aspirations. “We have promised people and it’s time for us to stand up to their expectations,” he said.
Seeking a complete change in the working culture of Railways, he said, “What people want is not few changes here and there, but a comprehensive change which takes the Railways and this country to match the best in the world.”
Referring to high-speed train as one of his priorities, Gowda said steps should be taken for introduce bullet trains in the country and average train speed should increase to 150-200 km per hour.
He said that railways should be more competitive than the road sector and also made a comparison with Chinese Railways which is “four times more efficient than ours both in terms of number of passengers carried per employee and freight carried per employee”.
Gowda said he is being flooded with complaints against railway services whether it was food or cleanliness or the issue of ticket reservation and emphasised that people want immediate changes and it should be visible.
“Why are our trains and stations not clean? Every passenger wants clean trains and stations but we are not able to keep our trains and stations clean, why?” Gowda asked.
On the issue of delays, he asked “We have time schedule for every train but are our trains running punctually? Most Railways in the world run their trains on time, why not we?”
Stating that the food served was not up to the expectations of passengers, he said there is an urgent need to improve quality of food being served on rail premises.
“We need to understand that passengers do not have choice but to eat what we provide which is below par,” he said.
“Are we able to meet the demand for railway services in any part of the country? Every train is over-booked. Every day people want tracks to be built on new routes. How do we meet the demand for more trains and new lines?” he asked.
“Are our passenger amenities up to the expectations of the public, like drinking water, waiting areas and rest rooms? Are our trains safe for women and elderly passengers? How can we make our railways safe for women?” he asked.
Seeking to address the issues affecting railways he asked officials to shed hierarchy and inhibitions and come up with innovative ideas.
“Why are we not as efficient as the best in the world? Don’t our employees work? Is the funding only problem? Or do we have any other problems? Can we find ways of solving all these problems and make our railways the best in the world which matches the expectations of public at large?”
“You may find it difficult to share certain issues with your senior officers for various reasons. You are at liberty to communicate (with me) directly any issue which would bring good name to Railways and I will keep it confidential,” the Minister said.
Asking DRMs to be more assertive, the Railway Minister told them to take complete responsibility of “all the good and bad” in their division or zone.
“I want all of you to be aware of these issues and think about them and find solutions to make our railways the best in the world,” Gowda said.