Indian Railways has been the biggest recruiter in the entire country till now, but its image might change in near future as a top notch official of the National Academy of Indian Railways has suggested for maintaining economy in manpower cost of railways and reduction in the railway staff.
In this connection, director general of the National Academy of Indian Railways, Pramod Kumar has written a letter, NAIR/DG/Misc/2013, to the chairman of Railway Board Vinay Mittal giving his suggestions for maintaining economy in manpower cost of Indian Railways. A copy of the letter has also been sent to the general manager of NCR, Alok Johri.
The letter mentions that ‘most of the current yardsticks for the creation of staff have been the same from past 15-20 years. With improvement in reliability on staff due to improved technology of design, manufacture and maintenance, it is possible to maintain these assets efficiently with even 30 to 40% less staff compared with yardsticks.’ He has also mentioned examples of certain railway divisions which have already opted for maintaining economy in manpower cost.
Regarding yardstick for electric Loco maintenance, the letter mentions that in the staff for Electric Loco there could be only 4 men per loco which was 28% less than the yardstick.
Regarding yardstick for track maintenance, the director general mentioned his own experience on SER (South Eastern railway) that it was possible to have one of the best maintained track (with sharp reduction in weld/rail fractures and derailments) on one of the heaviest loaded section of Indian railways with 41.7% less staff strength than MCNTM (Manpower Costing Norms for Track Maintenance) yardstick, that is only 8587 on roll against requirement as per norms of 14,730.
Regarding yardstick for coach maintenance, as per the Railway board, current men-on-roll plus outsourced personnel engaged in coach maintenance could be 29.2% less than the total requirement as per yardstick. However, many depots of Western Railway and Central Railway were able to efficiently maintain the coaches with even lesser staff.
Similar examples could be found in almost all types of maintenance activities which showed that a lot of cushion is available in all the yardsticks for maintenance activities if benchmarked with the most efficient divisions, depots and sheds, suggested Pramod Kumar.
In addition to this, director general of NAIR has also suggested various measures to arrest the present trend of ballooning staff costs.
He suggested that all the current yardsticks of staff might be withdrawn and an organisation like National Productivity Council (NPC) could be engaged to suggest zero based yardsticks based on the best practices of high reliability of assets coupled with highest staff productivity.
He suggested that each department might be assisted by a committee of three officers, one from the department concerned, one from any technical department and the other from finance. The committee could be asked not only to suggest new yardsticks, but also new practices for maintenance resulting in better reliability of assets with substantially reduced manpower. The surplus manpower, if any, could be redeployed for new assets.
He further added till the time this exercise was complete, Railway Board might impose complete ban on creation of staff and filling up vacancies except for running staff like TTEs and ECRCs and allow new staff only after elimination of surplus staff.
He also suggested that the entire criterion for efficiency shield needed to be revisited and in all the department’s shield, 10-20% weightage should be for staff productivity. In construction shield, similar weightage should be for economy in construction cost and finance and personnel shields should have adequate weightage for economy in staff costs.