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India – Mamta Banerjee discontinues a chair set up by Railways at IIM-A

Nirbhay Kumar

When one chair goes, can the other be left behind for long? Not at all, as former union railways minister Lalu Prasad has discovered . No sooner
has he been supplanted by Mamata Banerjee on the gaddi of Rail Bhawan this year that another prestigious chair he was rather partial to has also been set aside. Ms Banerjee has discontinued a chair set up by the Railways at Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, ostensibly as part of her ministry’s belt-tightening measures.

A performance review by her ministry noted that the institution of a chair had only yielded the Railways piles of statistics and not much more, according to a Rail Bhawan official familiar with the development.

“IIM Ahmedabad invited the then minister to deliver lectures on the Railways’ turnaround. Students of foreign B-schools such as Wharton and Harvard thronged to hear the minister which gave him the status of management guru. In return, IIM got a chair paid for by the Railways ,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Railway Board member (staff) AK Goyal, however, said that the chair had been set up for a fiveyear period and its performance was yet to reviewed.

Another official revealed that the Railways paid nearly Rs 13 lakh annually for the salary and expenses of the holder of the Chair for Railways Studies, Professor G Raghuram. The chair tasked with conceiving new ideas to improve Railways’ profitability and train officials, but its single contribution was a 2007 paper that praised Mr Prasad for the Indian Railways’ turnaround.

“Most of the information in the report was provided by the Railways itself,”added another official said. Ms Banerjee, however , was clearly not swayed by the professor’s rosy endorsement of her predecessor’s brilliance and has been sceptical about the euphoric balance sheets Prasad produced.

She has said the ministry would present a White Paper on the operational , organisational and financial performance of Railways in the five years Prasad was the minister. Whatever else it reveals, Prasad’s ‘management’ abilities will surely be proved!

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September 28, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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