With the Bibek Debroy committee on Railway restructuring close to finalising its report, a section in the ministry’s Civil Engineering branch has alleged that RVNL, a PSU executing engineering projects for the Railways, was grossly inefficient with a slow pace of commissioning lines, but still being awarded bulk of the projects.
The allegation against its own PSU by a section within the ministry is triggered by the Debroy committee’s interim recommendation that “all zonal construction organisations of the Railways be brought under the umbrella of one or more PSUs like RVNL, IRCON, etc”.
A confidential note sent to the committee by a section in the civil engineering branch has claimed that RVNL focused only on bagging contracts from Railways, but did little to ensure the new assets are commissioned, to be used by the state-owned transporter.
The allegations also assume significance since it is the Civil Engineering branch that oversees RVNL’s work.
The note, accessed by The Indian Express, said that Odisha even stipulated that an SPV with Railway floated recently must not award any project to RVNL. Further, it said doubling projects along many high-density routes with assured funding were pending with RVNL for last seven to nine years. In the last five years, only 573 km of doubling lines were commissioned, while about 600 km were still awaiting commissioning. RVNL said it planned to commission 400 km this year.
Recommending such a move, the Debroy committee had said, “This would not only improve the speed, efficiency and quality of execution, but also result in considerable downsizing of the organization.” Calling for a review of this recommendation, the note said with an order book of about 3,000 km doubling (about 40 per cent of all such projects of Railways), RVNL would need at least 20 years to commission these.
When contacted, Satish Agnihotri, CMD, RVNL said these allegations did not show the true picture and that “Railway construction organisations felt threatened by RVNL’s growth”.
“We receive money late from Railways. We have to often liquidate our fixed deposits to carry out works. They gave us Rs 700 crore only on March 28. Our track-laying work also involves electrification, unlike the zonal construction organizations. Commissioning of a line is not up to us. It depends on several external factors.
No one ever mentions that we pay heavy dividends to Railways from our profits. The parent is out to malign the child because the Debroy panel has understood our worth,” he told The Indian Express.