Feb 28, 2007

Lalu, the Tech Guy

Union Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav's IT plans for the Indian Railways this year is something to talk about. These are to be implemented by the railways and also Indian IT companies under the public-private partnership model.

  • 6,000 automatic ticket vending machines to be installed in major cities

  • Tickets at the press of a button by using smart cards or currency coins

  • Monthly Season Ticket through Internet service to be free

  • Common website to integrate the 50 different websites of the Railways with e-payment and e-tendering

  • Train-enquiry call centres in all four regions with SMS alerts; the call centres will also provide ticket, hotel and taxi booking services

  • Hand-held computers for train ticket examiners (TTEs) in reserved coaches to check seat availability and allot berths to wait-listed passengers

  • E-tickets issued through the 'e-seva' facilities of state governments, post-offices, petrol pumps and ATMs

  • Central Railway to undertake a pilot project of issuing daily and season tickets through multipurpose smart cards

  • Modern signalling systems to be developed; Automatic Block Signalling System for junctions with heavy traffic

  • Commercial portal to attract traffic for filling up vacant seats

  • Freight Operation Information System (FOIS) modules to be integrated, ERP packages for zonal railways and production units

  • Common website to integrate 50 different websites of Railways with e-payment and e-tendering [B-S]

What Lalu did during the last three years.

In the three years between his first and fourth budget, the Indian Railways, India’s largest employer, has seen an unprecedented improvement in performance, managing the impossible by balancing populism with efficiency.

Lalu Prasad took charge of the Indian Railways in May 2004. Between then and 2007-08, the Railways surplus shot up from Rs 880 crore to Rs 11,450 crore.

In the same time-frame, he would have achieved a 42 per cent increase in freight tonnage and a 73 per cent rise in freight earnings. Not surprisingly, his earning per net tonne kilometre is expected to go up from 72 paise in 2003-04 to 91 paise next year.

Prasad's biggest contribution, of course, is in achieving efficiency gains by bringing down the share of total working expenses in the Railways' gross traffic earnings from 92.6 per cent in 2003-04 to 79.6 per cent in 2007-08.

No other railway minister has managed to achieve such a dramatic turnaround. Also, significant is the expected rise in net revenue to Rs 16,022 crore, up from Rs 4,148 crore in 2003-04.

Investments, too, grew steadily. As a percentage of gross working expenses, the Railways' investments are expected to go up from 32 per cent in 2003-04 to 57 per cent in 2007-08.

On the passenger revenue front also, Prasad has maintained robust growth - a 49 per cent rise in passenger earnings from Rs 13,460 crore to Rs 20,075 crore in this period. Earnings per passenger kilometre are also expected to go up from 25 paise to 26 paise.

Lalu’s performance in passenger traffic has not been as eye-catching as in freight traffic. Perhaps the advent of low-cost airlines and populist compulsions have played a role here.[B-S]

No comments: