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A tough road ahead for the Railway minister

June 20, 2013 10:08 IST

A tough road ahead for the Railway minister

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Anusha Soni in New Delhi

Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday took charge as the sixth Minister of Railways in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s second term.

Earlier, the ministry had seen the unceremonious exit of Pawan Kumar Bansal, after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) unearthed an appointment scam involving Bansal’s nephew and a sitting member of the Railway Board.

Kharge took charge at the office on the second floor of Rail Bhawan. The building also houses the minister’s staff, as well as board members, most of whom have lately been questioned by CBI.

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Image: Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge.


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A tough road ahead for the Railway minister

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“I can only tell you something when I talk to the officials here,” was the new minister’s response. Though he enjoys a clean reputation, he may have to face a tough task of cleansing the system and, at the same time, hasten decision-making.

Even before he officially took charge at 10.30 am today, the 70-year-old member of Parliament from Gulbarga in Karnataka had been attending briefings since yesterday.

He held meetings with Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal, as well as other members of the board.

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Image: Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge.
Photographs: Courtesy, PIB

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A tough road ahead for the Railway minister

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One of the biggest challenges before him is appointments at the Railway Board. 

The board’s chairman, along with its finance commissioner, Vijaykanth, is set to retire by June 30. Besides, two posts, of member (staff) and member (traffic) are vacant. 

Considering the controversy that led to Bansal’s resignation, the appointments at the seven-member board of Indian Railways would be scrutinised. Aides of the minister denied any discussions on the pending appointments were held either yesterday or today.

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Image: Pawan Kumar Bansal, former Railway minister.
Photographs: Courtesy, PIB

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A tough road ahead for the Railway minister

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Many officials whose promotions and appointments were frozen because of the controversy are hoping for relief from the new minister. 

Some promotions at the level of divisional railway manager are expected to be approved.

One would have to wait and see how Kharge takes forward Bansal’s agenda to depoliticise railway charges by setting up the Railways Tariff Board.

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Image: Commuters struggle to board a train at Noli railway station in Uttar Pradesh.
Photographs: Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

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A tough road ahead for the Railway minister

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Ministry insiders say Kharge is seen as a mass leader. “There must be something about him that he was elected a member of legislative assembly nine times,” said an official, on condition of anonymity.

The minister’s appointment is also seen as something positive for railway projects that came to a halt abruptly, owing to Bansal’s resignation.

Assuming the UPA-II government completes its term ending May 31, 2014, and the railways remains controversy-free, Kharge would have about eleven months to make his presence felt.


Image: Workers load mail onto a train at Nizamuddin Railway Station.
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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