Monday, July 13, 2009
SUDHIR Kumar, influential 1982-batch Bihar cadre IAS officer and ex-OSD to former railway minister Lalu Prasad should help his former boss re-calculating accounts of the ministry in the last five years after current railway minister Mamata Banerjee questioned the claims of Rs 90,000 crore surplus funds in the interim budget presented by Mr Prasad before the Lok Sabha elections. Mr Kumar who co-authored the book titled “Bankruptcy to Billions: How the Indian Railways Transformed”, wrote in details about the secret of railways’ success to position itself as a cash-rich organization. In fact, Ms Banerjee, who is now coming out with a white paper on funds with the railways, said that a corpus of just Rs 8,361 crore remained after expenditure of Rs 13,600 crore on account of Pay Commission award last year and Rs 2,600 crore this year. The issue became complicated further when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had refused to give Mr Prasad, his former cabinet colleague, a clean chit and said the proposed white paper promised by the railway minister would uncover the reality and clear the air. Significantly, Lalu Prasad who is known for his political sharpness and wits, is not a mathematical wizard to find the railway books right. Nor will railway officers who were forced to take a backseat during his tenure would come forward to help the Bihar strongman by doing some accounting wonders! In fact, a number of railways officials were then perturbed by the fact that an IAS officer, Mr Kumar, was virtually running the show as Mr Prasad gave him a free hand to initiate any policy change and micro-manage everything to make Indian railways profitable. Mr Kumar was then so powerful that many Rail Bhawan officials including railway board members became virtual rubber stamps endorsing Mr Kumar’s line of strategy. Also, Mr Kumar remembered by heart many of the accounting figures and played a crucial role setting yearly target for the railways. Significantly, the Indian Railways with 1.4 million employees is one of the very few government arms which are not headed by IAS officers.