Not that Railway minister Suresh Prabhu or former Railway Board Chairman A.K Mital can personally be held responsible, neither can anybody assume that their resignations will eliminate any immediate chances of neglect or disaster. But, if they are meant to shock the system and act as a warning bell down the line, suggesting heads can roll if government functionaries do not wake up, such decisions can make a difference. To this extent, the choice of Ashwani Lohani is both desirable and welcome. He has a practical, hands-on, no-nonsense attitude. He knows the railways and comes from the same cadre – he is an Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineering (IRSME) officer of 1981 batch and has also served as DRM, Delhi Division; Director, National Rail Museum; and Chief Administrative Officer, Rail Alternate Fuel during his previous assignments. He understands transportation, and now that he has worked with an airline, can bring a higher level of confidence to the entire business of rail transport – not just railway stations, but on-board trains and also their distribution etc.
In a major re-jig in the administrative circle, following a spate of accidents in the recent months which has brought unwanted attention on the state of safety standards in the railways, Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani was named the Chairman of the Railway Board, following the resignation of A.K. Mital.
Mital, a Principal Secretary-level officer, tendered his resignation to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. His resignation came in the backdrop of the Railway Ministry decision of sending Railway Board Member Engineering and Secretary-level officer Aditya Kumar Mittal on leave, holding him responsible for the Utkal Express train accident at Khatauli railway station near Muzaffarnagar. At least 21 passengers succumbed to their injuries and over 80 people were injured.
Lohani takes charge at a time when the railways is in the midst of a major upgradation of infrastructure and passenger facility. Given his enviable track record as an administrator, the move should have positive ramifications for Indian railways, and consequently, travel and tourism in the country. Meanwhile, one can only say that given the larger turn-around at Air India, his transfer would be Air India’s loss with gain for Indian railways.