It is a crucial pre-Railway Budget meeting of the Board, GMs

The crucial pre-Budget meeting of the entire Railway Board with all zonal general managers in attendance has been abruptly postponed taking all those attached with the preparations of the Railway Budget, to be presented on February 26, by surprise.

It is perhaps the first time in recent years that the usual practice of consulting the general managers of all 17 zones before the presentation of the Railway Budget has been skipped.

“Jinxed?”

The meeting usually is held in January with the Board reserving sufficient time to take stock of the financial situation and consider their growth proposals and the constraints before preparing the Railway Minister’s speech.

The January round of the bi-annual meting of the general managers gains importance because of its focus on the Budget.

This time, however, it has somehow been jinxed. It was first scheduled to be held on February 12, then rescheduled for February 16 and then advanced to Friday.

No reason stated

The decision to postpone the meeting was taken without assigning any reason or the next possible date for exchange of ideas and prospects for outlining the growth path and agenda of the railways, hard-pressed for at least three years now to find a way out of its financial morass.

Whatever the reason, the possibility of holding the meeting before the presentation of the Railway Budget for 2013-14 seems remote with just 10 days in hand for doing all the spadework.

Perhaps, holding the meeting on February 15 too would have had left the Board and the Ministry with little time to take all the minutes into consideration.

According to sources, in all probability the formality of holding the general managers’ meeting will be completed after the presentation of the Budget.

Kumbh tragedy

One of the reasons forwarded for the deferment of the meeting was that at least three zones have been vested with the responsibility of ensuring smooth rail services during the Kumbh Mela, particularly on days of the shahi snans .

The job was botched on Sunday when a stampede at Allahabad station claimed 36 lives. The next auspicious day for bathing is Friday, which is the occasion of Basant Panchami.

Many in Rail Bhavan are far from convinced saying the absence of three general managers would not have in anyway impaired the meeting and that the truncated exercise too would have done only good for the railways.