Ashwani Lohani, the former Chairman of the Railway Board, had a successful tenure, that ending on December 31. According to sources, he was on the verge of getting an extension, but luck played truant. Lohani, stickler for rules and protector of human resources of Railways, kept his minister Piyush Goyal on tenterhooks.
He used to keep quiet in meetings whenever the minister used to summon the officials. As a result, big-ticket projects are waiting for the approval of the Railway Board. There is a very powerful lobby wants to bring automated 4G technology in signalling system for 60,000-km rail track at the cost of `78,000 crore (trials for this have been done in Australia for only 60 km and for that too impact results are awaited). There is an order pending for one lakh computers to be purchased by the Railways. One top industrial house from Mumbai is pressurising officials to sanction the order in spite of the fact the industrial house is not a manufacturer. There are hundreds of projects like these waiting for a green signal. But, Lohani used restraint and researched every paper. Sources disclosed that observing Lohani’s efficiency, the PMO had decided to extend his term for a year after December 31, 2018. According to informed sources, Piyush Goyal and another important minister in North Block were determined not to extend Lohani’s term irrespective of the fact that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was in the bureaucrat’s favour. As the Prime Minister was travelling to Andaman & Nicobar at that time, the file did not move and Lohani, as a result, retired on December 31. Vinod Kumar Yadav, a 1980-batch officer of Railways, the General Manager of South-Central Railway, was appointed the new Chairman of Railway Board on January 1, 2019. It is to be seen how Yadav faces up to the pressure and keeps the railways moving without obstructions.