Indian Railways has set-up large many committee to recommend measures to reform Railways. Why no committee constituted to cut staff which is about 57% of the total annual budget? Fundamentals of basic management is missing completely.
Thither was a news the other day ” Bheem joins Indian Railways in Ahemdabad”. This is a new class of high horse power locomotive added into service. Along with the news, there is a clipping which reads as follows:
Indian Railway spends around 57% towards salary and pensionary benefit from the net traffic receipt. Is there any Railway in the developed world, spending this much percentage on salary? Why Indian Railways does not learn this very basic fundamental during their visit abroad instead focussing on importing high-speed technology.
History of staff employed for running a train
During steam traction, the crew in the steam locomotive consists of a Driver, Fireman and 2nd Fireman. In addition, the passenger train employed two member crew namely a guard in the rear and a brakesman in front.Thus, making total 5 member crew for a passenger train beside commercial staff. During this period, guard of the train was considered an educated staff and with no responsibility of writing job attached to the driving crew. With the introduction of Electric and Diesel Traction, the locomotive crew reduced to two, namely Driver and Assistant Driver (designation changed subsequently to Loco Pilot and Assistant Loco Pilot). Minimum educational level of the locomotive crew raised and now all staff qualified to perform all responsibilities which are performed by a guard.
During the 90s, the need of brakesman in the front of the train was considered unnecessary and dispensed with. The strength of a crew is now uniform in all trains namely a Loco Pilot and Assistant loco pilot in the leading cab and a guard in the rear of the train with a few exceptions such as
- Rajdhani Trains are employing two loco pilots for working a train instead of one LP and another ALP beside a guard in the rear.
- EMU/MEMU trains employs one man in the driving cab called Motorman and one person in the rear cab called the guard.
- During 2000s, the freight trains were worked very frequently without a guard. There were occasions when brake-van is not attached, and guard travelling in the engine. This was called an exceptional train operation and with a control order.
All staff engaged for working a train are recruited through a competitive examination conducted by Railway Recruitment Board with a reasonably high educational level. Automation has been introduced over the period taking over responsibility of the Guard and Assistant Loco pilot. It is now the right time for Indian Railways to plan for dispensing guard in the freight train and assistant loco pilot in all classes of train. The investment that goes in introduction of such automation will have a ROR of not less than 20% beside improved safety standards. Unfortunately Indian Railways is introducing such automation, but without projecting the advantage of reducing employed manpower.
During 2012-13, the annual wage bill of IR was about 68000 CRs. with employee strength of 13 lakhs. The strength of running staff is about 1 lakh and average salary is around 7 lakhs/year. With the measures of rationalizing crew strength, a saving of about Rs. 3500 Crs is possible in this group of staff alone. It is easier said than done. No union will tolerate cutting down on the number of staff. “Safety compromised” is the first slogan that will be raised from all corners and no Govt. dare to debate or even think on this subject. But how long this situation is allowed to continue? Instead of looking for measure to reduce the crew strength, there is a demand to consider providing Assistant Loco Pilot in EMUs/MEMU by unions and the Commissioner of Railway Safety in the name of safety.
Railway Safety is a very vital subject and it is the automation and quality of material which has led to an improvement if one peep into the history. The reduction in number of cases from 532 in 90-91 to 131 in 2011-12 is due to consistent upgrade of automation and material quality and not by adding staff.
It is important to understand that negligence of staff still continues to be a major factor towards Rail accidents and giving reasons to the vested interest to ask for more staff knowing fully well that it will be technology which will help in improving safety.
Now just look at the scenario world over,
- High speed train operates with a single man crew in the engine and no guard. There is one conductor in the train to check the ticket.
- Freight train operates with single man crew in the locomotive with additional one staff performing the job of assistant loco pilot or guard.
- Metro train operates driverless. Even DMRC planning for Unattended Train Operation (UTO) in phase three trains.
- Manpower for maintenance and other operating activity is less than half of what is prevailing over Indian Railways. Even benchmarking studies of major maintenance activity indicates ±25% variation over the average.
What is possible immediately?
It is difficult for IR to change its policy overnight. There will be resistance all around and will certainly be a difficult task to take the unions on board so easily. But there are experts who know the art of negotiation and shall be engaged to begin the exercise. For turn-around of IR, there is no short cut and IR shall declare its intent clearly or do it silently. This is how to go about it.
- When work is managed with much lower staff per unit output, than why to keep very high yardstick. An immediate review of manpower yardstick by a third party. IR has engaged Delloitte for this purpose along with National Academy of Indian Railways. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Railways-ropes-in-Deloitte-to-right-size-top-heavy-organisation/articleshow/49110523.cms
- None of the department wants to reduce its manpower. There shall be management incentive for motivating the department for whole hearted support. In fact the pay commissions shall built in the clause in the recommendations for this aspect.
- To merge the cadre guard of EMU/MEMU train with Motorman. This will help immediate reversal of the EMU/Local train at terminus with the rear motorman taking over the charge of the train instead changing the cab.
- Freight train operation in dedicated circuit, sidings etc. shall be worked without guard. The reversal of breakeven is a major activity in the yard taking up considerable time, sectional capacity and energy. It will benefit turn-round time of the stock beside saving on staff.
- Dedicated Freight Corridor is in its nascent stage. The train crew shall consist of a single man only i.e. Loco pilot with the responsibility of guard taken over automation and remote communication.
- Large many microprocessor based safety measures have been introduced and many more possible in near future. The investment for these safety measures shall be justified on the ground of reducing crew strength.
How is the status of staff in other areas of IR management?
Everyone, inside or outside of the Indian Railways knows that IR is over staffed. But it is unfortunate that there is no one in the top management ready to bell the cat. Instead, there is a mad race for creation of more post and crying from the roof top about the difficulty in management of assets. The yardstick for creation of posts revised upwardly even with the introduction of maintenance free items and improved technology. The Efficiency and Research directorate of Railway Board compiles the data on staff productivity for different works and found to vary plus/minus 25% from the average. The benchmarking data is available at http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/railwayboard/uploads/directorate/eff_res/downloads/BM_Feb_2015.pdf
All posts are justified in the name of “Don’t touch me – I am safety category” and surrender of these posts means “compromising safety” This attitude of the top management has to change, and unless done, Indian Railways will not be able to come out of the vicious circle.
There are few courageous top management officials like DG/NAIR who wrote to the then CRB to look for measures in cutting down on man power cost if the news in times of India is to be relied upon http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/Railways-can-do-with-lesser-staff-NAIR-official/articleshow/20417924.cms Few excerpts from the news are as follows
But interesting to note, that this letter is also silent on the subject of running staff (LP,ALP and guard) because of a very big question mark of safety attached. With improvement in passenger reservation system and internet mobile ticketing, interface staff with passenger shall be cut down. There is so many improvement in passenger reservation system called for to improve utilisation of seat-km capacity and cutting down vested interest of the Train Conductor.
The turn-around story of Indian Railway is not possible without addressing the staff cost.
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