Research wings of railways cut to size

Going ahead with its downsizing plan, the Indian Railways has announced the closure of the Special Railway Establishment for Strategic Technology and Holistic Advancement (SRESTHA), Lucknow.

Established in March 2016, the SRESTHA directorate, part of the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), was tasked with the role of taking up long-term railway research projects requiring technological advancement.

As part of the restructuring plan, the railways also decided to merge 32 Directorates of the RDSO and brought them under seven verticals — Administration, Infrastructure, Rolling Stock, Traction and Power Supply, Signal and Telecommunication, Resource and Testing and Traffic and Psychology.

It was also notified that the Geotech Engineering Directorate would be merged with the Track and Bridges & Structures Directorate. The establishment of Principal Executive Director, Defence Research, at the Defence Research and Development Organisation, New Delhi, was detached from the RDSO.

New posts

The railways also proposed to create new posts in the rank of Executive Director, Design, to be posted at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala and Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli, under the Railway Board’s Rolling Stock Directorate. The creation of the top ranking posts assumes significance in the backdrop of the decision to roll out more than 200 Vande Bharat rakes at an estimated cost of ₹26,000 crore.

The restructuring plan of the country’s largest employer and transporter which is resulting in the closure or merger of major establishments and private participation in running hospitals and schools is in line with the recommendations of the Principal Economic Adviser Sanjeev Sanyal for Rationalisation of Government Bodies.

In his proposal for the Minister of Railways, Mr. Sanyal called for the winding up of organisations like the Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE), the Central Organisation for Modernisation Of Workshops (COFMOW), the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) and the Indian Railways Organisation for Alternative Fuel (closed on September 7, 2021).

‘Vision derailed’ 

The railways was continuing with the closure/merger of crucial establishments despite stiff resistance from the employees’ unions. Organisations such as the IROAF were formed with a long-term plan of promoting green fuel. Such a vision was now getting derailed, said N. Kanniah, president, All India Railwaymen Federation.

“Similarly other establishments proposed for closure have crucial modernisation, technological and research-oriented goals in the near future. Winding them up prematurely not only defeats the very purpose of their creation but demoralises the officers/employees who have been part of the mission. Monetisation and corporatisation will ultimately lead to privatisation,” he warned.

In a letter to Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, National Federation of Indian Railwaymen general secretary M. Raghavaiah said there was widespread unrest and resentment against the proposal of the Principal Economic Adviser for closure/merger of institutions/bodies of the railways.

‘Disruption of systems’ 

The establishments recommended for closure were functioning efficiently and contributing for greater efficiency of the Indian Railways. The radical proposals of the Principal Economic Adviser in the name of “rationalisation”, if implemented, might lead to chaos and disruption of systems and cause a serious setback to the orderly and efficient functioning of the railways, Mr. Raghavaiah said.

The NFIR leader urged the Railway Minister not to take any action on the closure/merger plans without reaching a consensus on each proposal in consultation with the employees’ union.