Within 20 minutes of taking charge at Rail Bhawan on Monday, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu made it clear that he means business.
He is learnt to have directed the Railway Board to prepare a white paper that can help him chart a roadmap for his ministry. He has also told board members to not bring files to him for signatures for the time being.
Speaking to The Indian Express, a member of the board said: “He (Prabhu) has said we must prepare a document outlining our priorities, necessities and a plan for turnaround. After finalisation, the minister may present it in the Parliament during Winter Session”. He added,
“Prabhu has also said that files related to tenders and similar matters should not be brought to him for the time being. Instead, we must look into them.”
Spurred by the minister’s directive, the railway board held a special meeting on Monday evening and decided to prepare material for the document. The officials will need to give Prabhu an update when he meets the board again.
Sources said Prabhu had told the board to chalk out “measurable, achievable targets and deliverables” for an overall turnaround against which the ministry’s performance can be gauged.
The last time Railways prepared such a document was during the term of Mamata Banerjee who unveiled a white paper on the ministry’s finances to debunk her predecessor Lalu Prasad’s claims of a cash-rich Railways. She had also released what is known as Vision 2020.
A highly-placed source said Prabhu inquired about the status of appointments and promotions in the ministry, but could not go into the details for want of time. Officials, however, expect Prabhu to bring up the matter again.
Meanwhile, the Railway Board’s first meeting with Prabhu has landed it in a conflict with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways, whose meeting was scheduled for 11am Monday. Members of the Dinesh Trivedi-led committee was said to be livid when none of the board members showed up and the MPs had to wait for a good half-an-hour. The angry MPs also threatened to initiate proceedings against the board.
Sources said Trivedi had told Chairman of the board that he could come in for the meeting late since the new minister was taking over, but the rest of the members should arrive on time. Oblivious to this, Prabhu held his first Board meeting at around 11am for which all members had to be present.
A Standing Committee member told The Indian Express that the meeting could not take place as the MPs treated this as a show of disrespect. Sources said one board member had to pursue Trivedi outside Parliament to explain that it was a just a matter of communication gap. The panel will not press for proceedings, but has warned the board, the source said.