The Ministry of Railways may be set to create two separate public sector undertakings to take over the Indian Railways’ manufacturing units. The original plan was to create a single entity that will take over all manufacturing units of the Indian Railways.
According to an Indian Express report, the change in the plan may be an attempt to insulate the production units from rivalry by handing the warring Mechanical and Electrical Departments one PSU each.
Attempt to reduce departmental friction
The Ministry expects this will pacify both departments and provide them with their own spheres of influence. This as per recommendations of a private consultancy that was left unnamed by the IE report.
A single entity would have forced the two cadres to work together in the various units. With the new plan, the Mechanical Department could take over the PSU manufacturing rolling stock like coaches. The Electrical Department is expected to handle the PSU that deals with the manufacture of locomotives.
However, which PSU will handle self-propelled vehicles like Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMU), Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMU), the wider EMUs, and new generation rolling stock like Train-18 like trainsets isn’t clear from the report.
Key units that were to become part of the new entity under the original plan were locomotive makers Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) based in West Bengal, Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) based in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Diesel Modernization Works (DMW) based in Patiala, Punjab, coach manufacturers Modern Coach Factory (MCF) based in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, and Rail Coach Factory (RCF), Kapurthala, Punjab, and Integral Coach Factory (ICF) based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Anticipating resistance from staff and unions in the older units, the plan was refined to first make the newer units like MCF and the Rail Wheel Factories at Yelahanka and Bela part of the new entity.
Also likely to come under the wing of the new production behemoth were the new locomotive factories at Madhepura and Marhowra. These operate under joint ventures with Alstom and General Electric’s locomotive division. It is not yet clear what approach will be used to transfer ownership of these factories to one or both of the new PSUs.
The long Mechanical v/s Electrical Cold War
The Mechanical v/s Electrical war has been fought on various battlegrounds and has claimed multiple victims in the past. The most recent was the prestigious Train-18 project, where the two cadres traded several procedural blows with each other.
All tenders were cancelled subsequently and the whole project is now looking at an uncertain future. Top officials have reportedly claimed that Train-18 had significantly higher energy consumption and thus needed redesigning. No data was provided to support this claim.
Another victim has been the subsequent shelving of Train-20 plans. The project was shelved this year after the Train-18 controversy and the unwillingness of the Ministry to take a clear stance.
As an alternative to Trainsets pushed by the Mechanical Department, Electrical has proposed the use of Push-Pull configurations. Existing coaches and electric locomotives at either end of the train are utilized with this format.
Several committees were appointed to identify measures to improve the functioning of IR over the past three decades. They suggested the dismantling of the Electrical and Mechanical departmental structure. Functions that were in line with business needs were favoured instead.
However, with the Ministry considering a move that will further reinforce departmentalism rather than discourage it, the war is likely to continue.
The new approach also implies that the Ministry no longer has the ambition, or the will, to restructure the Indian Railways organization