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Under Lalu, Rail Bhawan gets a makeover
Tara Shankar Sahay | August 28, 2004 17:21 IST
With Lalu Prasad Yadav taking over the reins of the railway ministry, Rail Bhawan has become more media-friendly.
Changes are apparent at the railway ministry's headquarters at Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Marg in New Delhi with the even armed guards shedding much of their arrogance and keeping a wary eye out for their minister.
Lalu's accession to the railway ministry has sent shockwaves among numerous high-profile bureaucrats who have always looked at members of the fourth estate with disdain and suspicion.
The minister's unsettling habit of turning up at the headquarters at odd hours has unnerved many senior babus, some of whom have been upbraided by the minister for not arriving in office in time.
Lalu's no-nonsense approach and his much touted phrase that 'The media is my eyes and ears, they are mai-baap' has not gone down well with the denizens of Rail Bhawan.
Soon after taking over, Lalu summoned a meeting with Railway Board Chairman Rabindra Kumar Singh and six other members to let them know there was going to be a new work culture under him.
According to a senior official who was present in the meeting, Lalu told them in no uncertain terms, 'You people go out in the field and devise ways and means to improve the functioning of the railways otherwise your jobs are at stake.'
Lalu told the members that 'safety, security, punctuality and cleanliness' would henceforth be the yardstick for his ministry.
The official pointed out that during a recent inspection tour in West Bengal, Lalu could barely control his anger when he was informed that a Railway Protection Force constable had raped a woman. The constable, K D Rai, had attacked the woman at a secluded spot near the Hasanabad railway station (near the West Bengal-Bangladesh border). The woman reported the incident to the station master.
Lalu rang up the RPF director-general and demanded that the constable be immediately dismissed from service.
Lalu's carrot-and-stick approach has begun to have effect, say officials. An official pointed out that both punctuality and cleanliness (including the toilets in the ministry) was being observed at Rail Bhawan.
But lower grade staff seem to be energised by Lalu's actions. Peons and office boys are thrilled when the minister occasionally greets them with a smile.
Also Lalu has delegated responsibility to his two ministers of state for railways – Narenbhau Rathwa and R Velu. Each has been given the right to handle railway contracts upto Rs 80 crores (Rs 800 million).
Lalu's predecessor Nitish Kumar permitted the MOS railways to deal with contracts upto Rs 25 crores (Rs 250 million).
An official pointed out that Lalu's was not in favour of Railway Board Chairman Singh, appointed by Nitish Kumar, but allowed him to continue since Singh had only a couple of months of service left.
The official said Lalu has sent a circular to railway officials, warning them not to be influenced by anybody using his name to seek favours.
More reports from Delhi
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