By Arun Kumar Das
New Delhi, March 24 - Faced with massive cost-overruns and procedural wrangles over certain projects, Indian Railways has decided against approving any works above Rs 50 crore without a detailed project report (DPR).
All works costing above Rs 50 crore shall be approved only after preparation of DPRs that contain detailed estimates, except for new lines and gauge conversion, according to a directive issued by the Railway Board last week.
There are more than Rs 1 lakh crore worth of projects pending -- some of them for years -- across the country due to clearance hurdles and cost-escalations, adding to the financial burden of the cash-strapped Railways.
"Many projects have been pending for years without any substantial progress because these were taken up without any proper planning and detailed estimates," said a senior Railway Ministry official.
Several projects are stuck with issues like forest clearances, land acquisition, coastal zone regulation and other local issues.
"All this has not only caused cost-escalations but has resulted in a heavy backlog and burden on the financial condition of the Railways," he added.
As per norms, budgetary allocations have to be made for each of these projects every year. If the projects are dropped, then the money allotted for them can be diverted to profitable and viable projects. But these can't be deleted by the Railways as they were part of the budget and passed in Parliament and withdrawal has to happen after approval of Parliament.
According to last week's decision, all these issues would be taken into account in the DPR and the project would be sanctioned on the basis of the detailed estimate now.
If a DPR is prepared, only serious projects will come up and no frivolous or non-feasible ones will be taken up for consideration, the official said.
In order to strengthen its project execution and monitoring mechanism, the Railways has also launched a web-enabled remote eye monitoring system developed by Rail Vikash Nigam Ltd (RVNL).
The national transporter has asked the RVNL to monitor important projects with the use of drones and project management software.
RVNL, a special purpose vehicle created by the Railways for execution of engineering works, has also been asked to develop a special web-enabled project management software to monitor rail projects which can be integrated with monitoring of plans, remote eye monitoring system and images captured by drones.