Calling for a freeze in the creation of new posts, rationalisation of manpower at workshops, shifting outsourced work to CSR, moving ceremonial functions to digital platforms, cutting down on use of stationary by 50 per cent — the railways is gearing up to adopt a slew of austerity measures proposed by its financial commissioner in view of the serious dent in its earnings this year due to the coronavirus crisis.
In a letter dated June 19, the financial commissioner of the railways told the general managers of all the zones that the traffic earnings of the national transporter dropped by 58 per cent at the end of May, as compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.
"There is a need to explore new areas of expenditure control and enhancement of earnings," the letter said.
It stated that such measures were already announced by the then financial commissioner in 2017 and the Railway Board in 2019.
"As you are aware, the railways has been mandated by the government to meet all of its revenue expenses, including pension, from its own receipts. The COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown are, however, likely to adversely impact the budgeted earnings target of the current year," the letter said.
It also advised the zones to control expenditure by reducing staff cost, rationalising staff and also by making them perform multiple tasks. It also asked the zones to review contracts, reduce energy consumption and cut cost in administrative and other areas.
"Immediate review of re-engaged staff and feasibility of curtailing the same to bare minimum shall be explored. Freeze new post creation except safety-related posts.
"Review of posts created in the last two years should be done and if recruitment has not been done against those posts, the same may be reviewed for surrendering, rationalisation of manpower in workshops. Time and motion study of workshops and production units for review of allowed time and incentives," the letter said.
The financial commissioner also recommended that all file work be moved to the digital sphere and advised that all correspondence must be done through secure e-mails. It also instructed the zones to reduce the use of stationery articles, cartridges and other items by at least 50 per cent. It also asked the zones to review and close all uneconomic branches of the ministry.
Describing the annual inspection by the general manager as a "big affair", the financial commissioner said, "Annual inspections should be a silent and low-key affair with the minimum number of staff required."
The letter also said all outsourced activities such as on-board housekeeping, linen management, station cleaning, elevator and escalator manning, station announcement should be reviewed and curtailed and attempts should be made to get them done through corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds.
The financial commissioner also proposed grounding of all diesel locomotives of over 31 years through sale or export.