The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved a proposal of the Ministry of Railways to empanel 25 seniors officers for appointment to the post of General Manager or equivalent in the Zonal Railways. The name of Shubranshu, the architect of India’s first semi-high speed train – Vande Bharat Express — has been dropped.
Mr. Shubhranshu, as the Principal Chief Mechanical Engineer, Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, led a team of officials to roll out the indigenously designed and developed Train18 in a record 18-month period in 2018. Though his name figured in the panel of officers approved by the ACC for posting as General Manager in 2019-20, it was removed from the fresh panel without any reason cited in the order.
The officer, belonging to the 1985-batch of the Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME), is among those against whom vigilance enquiries were initiated after the Train18 project ran into a controversy. He was transferred and posted as Chief Administrative Officer, Rail Wheel Factory, Bela.
The self-propelled train was later flagged off as Vande Bharat Express between Delhi and Varanasi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2019.
While another rake of Train18 was also rolled out last year and introduced on the Delhi-Katra-Delhi route and both the Vande Bharat Express trains were running without any issues, allegations surfaced that officials made compromises on certain safety aspects and one company was favoured in the procurement of components.
A turf war between the Mechanical and Electrical departments over claiming ownership of the game-changer train is said to be the reason behind a series of issues that finally derailed the project.
Even as Mr. Modi announced that more Vande Bharat Expresses would be launched across the country, the making of the trains came to a halt at the ICF.
But despite a new design approved by the Research Designs and Standards Organisation and fresh tenders floated last year for making 44 rakes, the project remained shelved. After the second tender was scrapped recently, Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav said that fresh tenders would be called as per the Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) guidelines.
Mr. Shubhranshu could not be reached for comment. However, senior railway officials told The Hindu that mere initiation of a vigilance enquiry was not grounds for denying an official of promotion.
Quoting an order of the Railway Board, an officer said that to avoid undue harassment of officials against frivolous complaints and delays in their promotions etc., it was made clear that only cases where officials were under suspension, against whom a charge sheet was laid/disciplinary or criminal proceedings pending should be brought to the notice of the Departmental Promotions Committee.
In the case of Mr. Shubhranshu, two vigilance enquiries were initiated in connection with the making of Train18 but he was not charge sheeted. When the controversy over Train18 hit the headlines affecting its production at ICF, he formally wrote to the Railway Board Chairman calling for a working environment that was “free from fear, suspicion and inter-departmental conflicts” to deliver Vande Bharat Express trains to the nation as desired by Mr. Modi.