Newly appointed Minister for Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal, speaking on “India’s Road Ahead” at the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata spoke of various measures that can be undertaken to improve the latest addition to his portfolio, the railways.
Talking of safety, he elaborated on the particular aspect of track inspection. According to the minister, railway lines in India are still being checked manually. “There is a linesman who walks along the track and uses something with which he checks the track and by the sound of it he knows whether there is a fracture or is it ok. His mandate is to do six kilometres everyday” he explained. This being so, the minister said that he had been told that this would require hiring 260,000 more people to make Indian railways safe.
Suggesting effective alternatives to the labour intense process, the minister spoke of exploring the possibility of employing new technology for the same task. “Forget something very fancy, even if you add a small rail car which senses or a small x-ray equipment or microscope or whatever, which reading, can through communication, again RailTel is available, be available both for the person running it and also in the control room for the experts to see, I think we can do the same job with one-tenth the number of people and may not have to burden the railways with more inefficiency,” he explained.
Goyal, is known for his technocratic approach, thanks to which two crisis-ridden sectors that he was put in charge of two years ago seem to be slowly but steadily resurrecting themselves. Changes steered by the minister include the addition to power generation capacity, transparency in the auctioning of coal blocks and renewable energy targets almost being met.
He also launched various dashboards like the National Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP) dashboard, the Saral Eindhan Vitaran Application (SEVA) for power sector consumers, the Grameen Vidyutikaran Android app, that lets one track the progress of rural electrification in India through a real-time dashboard. Hopefully, his ideas and their implementation are able to get Indian railways back on track.