Electricity Act of 2003 was a watershed moment in India’s Power sector.It has led to unbundling of power sector on functional basis into areas namely distribution, generation and transmission. Unbundling of railways on functional classification has been long overdue and perhaps, time may be near that functional organisations be carved out of the existing system.At this moment, it will be prudent for railways to carefully go through the story of unbundling in power sector if it wants to achieve the expected growth in the railway sector.
Back in 2015, my father received prestigious ‘Gold shield’ on behalf of PSTCL(Punjab State Transmission Corporation Limited) from then Honorable Minister of power Piyush Goyal for fastest completion of 400 kv line leaving stalwarts like Powergrid behind.This was result of unbundling of power sector where the transmission sector got the desired resources as well as autonomy that was unavailable in earlier monolithic electricity boards.Interestingly,while my father worked in transmission sector for a long time, he was always on rolls of the parent corporation i.e. PSPCL(Punjab State Power Corporation limted) which is a generation and distribution corporation and successor of erstwhile electricity boards.
The first and foremost reason of success of unbundling of power sector was active participation of employees in the whole process.There are three main cadres in power sector i.e. electrical, civil and accounts.None of the cadres was touched but instead they were allowed to work in their areas of specialization.As new corporations were formed , there was more chance for people to reach top levels and hence, their morale got lifted.And most importantly strict seniority cum merit criteria was created with relevant experiences for director level posts which depoliticized the whole process.The result was that employees joined the government in reforms.
Infact, from the time I have listened about cadre merger in railways, I am constantly thinking of that time when my father’s organisation was undergoing unbundling. Why was he not restless? How did it work out so smoothly for them? The only answer I got is that you have to take your people along and protect their interests.The best case is to align their interests with the unbundling of organisation and the support will automatically follow.In railways too, the tryst with unbundling itself would have solved a lot of issues that are being attempted through cadre merger.
The unbundling of railways will have great spin offs in future.It will not only lead to expansion of the sector but will also create a lot of opportunities for the railwaymen to contribute in a better way.However, it is very important that we tread a cautious path while we develop railway as a sector because of the importance railways has in India’s economic and social scenario.A determined, inclusive and progressive strategy needs to be worked out that takes care of all the stakeholders and aligns all the forces towards expansion of railways.