In a four-day operation across the country involving 500 of its officers and Railway Vigilance, the CBI has unearthed a “highly sophisticated’’ scam in which the software system that automatically weighs goods on wagons passing over weigh-bridges was manipulated, causing “huge financial losses” to the government. The scam is alleged to have been perpetrated through collusion of Railway officials, private vendors and freight operators.
CBI sources said while the agency was yet to fix blame for the racket on specific individuals and ascertain the quantum of financial loss, “the amount could run into several hundred crores.” The agency will soon register multiple FIRs in connection with the racket which may have been on for the past two or three years, they said.
According to CBI sources, it received inputs that the weighing system at several places had been manipulated in such a way that over-loading of a wagon was concealed and the weight shown to be within the permissible limit. Freight charges collected by the Indian Railways are levied based on the weight of goods that are loaded in the wagons. Static and in-motion weigh bridges are used for weighing the goods. Nearly 200 Electronic In-Motion Weigh Bridges (EIMWBs) developed by Railways in consultation with Research Development and Standards Organisation (RDSO) have been installed across the country to weigh freight in transit. Goods trains passing at a speed of 15 km per hour are automatically weighed by the system.
The system has been in place since 2011. Sources told The Indian Express that the private vendors involved in the weighing process are ESSACE Digitronics Pvt Ltd, Digital Weighing Systems Pvt. Ltd., Rice Lake Weighing Systems India Ltd., Scheck Process India Ltd, R R Engineers and Consultation, Sanmar Weiging Systems Ltd and Sean Logistics. The CBI is yet to ascertain whether any of these firms had a role to play in the racket. To unearth the racket, the CBI launched joint surprise checks at over 65 EIMWB locations.
“During the operation carried out across the country, the CBI, with the assistance of the Railways’ Vigilance department and digital forensic experts, secured EIMWB locations to prevent the possibility of tampering; test runs were conducted with rakes comprising freight wagons carrying different loads to check the accuracy of actual weighment, and in-motion weighment was done at different speeds,” said a CBI source. According to sources, the CBI found systematic under-weighment at many locations.
“It is a joint surprise check by Railways Vigilance Department and CBI to streamline the system and check irregularities, if any,” said a Railways spokesperson.