Railblock aheadDelay in operating the Janakpur-Kurtha rail is a masterclass on how not to run projects.
Nepali politicians have a habit of selling dreams of a prosperous country. Nepalis have a habit of buying those dreams, albeit often with a pinch of salt. Among the most iconic of the dreams that the leaders have sold the people is the Nepali rail. For long, the Nepalis have heard about the Purva-Paschim rail, the Kerung-Kathmandu rail, and the Kathmandu-Raxaul rail, all of which will supposedly change their lives for the better. These are far-fetched dreams as yet. At the moment, the Nepalis would feel a sigh of relief even if the Janakpur-Kurtha rail, for which infrastructure is ready, came into operation. But even that dream remains far-fetched as the government fails to complete legal and human resource preparations for operating the rail service.
Having tabled the ordinance related to operating the railway in July, the Sher Bahadur Deuba government failed to get a parliamentary nod within the 60-day deadline. Moreover, the government fired over 150 staff hired by the previous government, leaving the Nepal Railway Company with almost no trained staff to get the trains running. As a result, the twin Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit trains that arrived in Janakpur last year continue to collect dust and rust. So much so that the one-year warranty of the rail sets has expired without them coming into operation. The government, it seems, is neither in any hurry to recruit new staff nor in running the trains that cost hundreds of million rupees of taxpayers’ money.
Nepal’s failure to get the trains running even after the standard operating procedure with India is signed, and the infrastructure is handed over, epitomises how rudderless our public infrastructure governance is. At the heart of the current railway crisis is the culture of inefficiency and selfishness that characterises our political leadership and bureaucracy. The convenience of the people is hardly ever a priority for successive governments. Each new government comes up with new policies and invalidates whatever little is done by the previous government. And with the bureaucracy keen to go beyond its call of duty to pander to the whims of whoever in the government, there is almost always a break in the development chain. The same has seeped into the ongoing work of the Department of Railways, resulting in trains remaining in a stationary position for over a year.
The failure to operate the trains even after the infrastructure is completed has postponed people’s dream to use the modern version of the Janakpur-Jaynagar rail and become an economic burden. The Railway Company has spent millions of rupees on staff salaries and maintenance without the trains coming into operation. The government should, without delay, move ahead with the remaining procedures to facilitate the operation of the trains so that they help reap social and economic benefits. We cannot continue to fail to benefit from crucial infrastructure due to the inefficacy of a few individuals at the helm.