Nityanand Pandey & Ankita Mishra
Mukul Jain is an IRTS officer of 1988 batch. He was born in Agra and did his post-graduation in management. He started his career as Assistant Commercial Manager on Mumbai Division of Central Railway. He was later transferred to Jabalpur and then to Bhusawal where he worked in Operations and thereafter also worked as Senior Divisional Operations Manager on Mumbai Division, Central Railway. He later worked in Vigilance as also Secretary to GM, CR. Thereafter, he did a stint in CONCOR as Group General Manager, Western Region after which he was also posted on South Eastern Railway as CPTM and then as CTPM. Currently, he is working as Divisional Railway Manager, Mumbai Division, Western Railway. In an exclusive interview with India Unbound, he shared his achievements and about the challenges he faced as an IRTS officer. He also shared details of new sanctions and ongoing projects for the development of the railway system.
* Please tell us about your School, College Days and where you were born and brought up?
-I was born in Agra. My father was in Army and so, I have done my schooling from different places largely in Punjab -Jullunder and Amritsar. Later, I did my graduation from Shri Ram College, Delhi. I did my post graduation in rural management from the Institute of Rural Management Anand. Subsequently, I have worked in PCDF limited, the apex dairy federation in UP at Lucknow. I belong to the 1988 exam batch of IRTS.
* Did you always want to become an IRTS Officer?
-Civil services have a lot of services after successful selection. One can indicate his preference by way of order of priority. IRTS was not my top priority but I value the Service and am very happy with it.
* What are your memories of your batch IRTS? Do you still meet your batch mates? How do you celebrate?
-All our batch mates are in touch with each other. In fact, we have a WhatsApp group in which we share our joys and sorrows and family events. We also share our children’s progress. We are a very close group of 17 members. Whenever we are in the same town, we always try to meet and have a get-together.
* What are your major challenges you are facing as a DRM?
-Both Western and Central railway combine to form around 40% of the total passenger traffic of the country. Western railways has about 37 lakh passengers every day including 34 lakh suburban passengers. We are running 1355 suburban trains every day, apart from 120 mail express trains and many other passenger trains. We have a total staff strength of about 24000. So, this itself is a major task; maintenance of the trains, their punctuality, their scheduled maintenance, maintenance of stations and passenger amenities, public information systems, managing the staff issues; their promotions, their postings, selections, etc. The suburban passengers are also very sensitive to disruption in the traffic and we have to carry all the maintenance during night. The expectations of the people is very high and we have to constantly strive to serve our customers. Also with the new Govt, major improvement works have been sanctioned for the suburban, be it installation of lifts, escalators, additional foot overbridges, new projects, etc, all of which are targeted works and therefore the challenges are immense.
* Kindly share your experience of different places?
-I started with Mumbai as a Asst Commercial Manager but, that was a long time back. During that time I got to know about the expectations of the public. After then, I shifted to Jabalpur where I worked in Freight Operations. As Freight is the bread and butter of railways, it gave me good insight into all aspects of railway working. Even today, when I see a loaded Goods train passing by at a speed of 60 kmph, my heart beats with joy. Then subsequently, I was posted in Mumbai where I worked in safety and in vigilance and also as Senior Divisional Operations Manager in Mumbai Division, Central Railway. All these three assignments in Mumbai were highly challenging. Subsequently, I was on Deputation with Container Corporation of India as Group General Manger for 4 years. Thereafter,I was posted to the South-Eastern railway as CPTM(Chief Passenger Transportation Manager) and later as CTPM (Chief Traffic Planning Manager). Thereafter, I have been working here.
* What are your major achievements so far in various postings?
-Railways is all about teamwork and all achievements are of the team but some of the highlights during the postings that I had are firstly, when I was GGM in Container Corporation, the traffic in the ICD at Dronagiri was dwindling. We initiated and introduced a system of dedicated export traffic in BCN rakes directly into ICD. This was a major achievement and changed the logistics pattern of the region and also became a trendsetter for the other ICDs to emulate. Another exciting period was when I was posted as CPTM, SER. Post Gyaneshwari Accident when Naxalite movement was at its peak, ere were a lot of restrictions placed on night running of trains. Security advisories were received all the time requiring constant adjustment of train operations. But with the help of my team, we managed to pass that phase withot any untoward incident. I also had submitted a paper on dynamic pricing in the passenger fair segment in Indian railways in 2012 which was the catalyst for Dynamic pricing in railways in 2012. Using the STA line for running additional suburban trains in peak is another step which brought much needed relief to the Mumbai commuters.
* Do you thing that local AC train will be useful for Mumbaikars?
-Today an average lead of Mumbaikar travel is about 34-35 km which means almost an hour of journey. AC will cut out noise and heat thus reducing fatigue and make for a very comfortable journey. We have just introduced this and we as also the Mumbaikars are very excited. We are also taking feedback from people so that the expectations and issues can be addressed.
* We have come to know that others local are affecting to the AC local?
-We are running trains on 3 mins frequency and whenever the AC local will be introduced we have to substitute an existing local. But, then it important to note that AC local will herald a new era of comfortable travel. Substitution of normal rake with AC rake is unavoidable.
* What kind challenges facing to introduce AC Local Train?
-The AC train has been introduced on 25th of December 2017 and a number of suggestions have come from the public. First, is dissemination of information to the public that the train to arrive is AC train. Presently our software and platform indicators are not geared to provide that information but we are working on its modification. Announcements are of course being made. The door closer is another issue. As the crowd increases there can be an obstruction in door closing. Today, the suburban trains halt for 20-30 secs at each station but, in AC train, door opening and closing itself consumes 5-6 secs. And these 5-6 secs over 30 stations leads to loss of 3-4 mins. This can cause a cascading effect. However we are working on all these issues.
* First local AC didn’t get very good response from commuters? What do you think about that and is bullet train helpful ?
-Bullet train is a very good concept. It will bring an immense change in the way people travel. It will bring cities and industries closer and certainly it will impact ancillary industries also. We are fortunate that Mumbai commuters are very disciplined and we are not expecting any major issue with respect to the AC local. The door closure will be a problem but we feel that the Mumbaikars will adapt very fast.
* Do you think that the fare of local AC is ok or is it costly?
-AC trains are itself costing about 54 crores and a lot of investments are also going into suburban. We are in the process of taking feedback and changes can always be considered. The next AC local train will come after 10 to 11 months.
* Many suburban railway stations commuters are facing be problems due to overcrowded local train like Mira road, Nallasopara and others do you have any plan to resolve that problem?
-A number of projects have been sanctioned. There is an elevated corridor between Bandra and Virar. Apart from that, there is already a sanctioned work of 5th and 6th line from Mumbai central up to Borivali. And another proposals of 5th and 6th line from Borivali to Virar is being considered. There is also a sanctioned work of suburban corridor from Panvel to Virar. Signalling improvements are also being considered for better frequency of the trains.
* Mumbai local are called heart beat of Mumbai tell about that?
-Over a period of time, the railway lines have become a natural drain for Mumbai. The side of tracks is more elevated than the tracks. Apart from that certain tracks are almost at the sea level. We take a lot of pre-monsoon precautions jointly with BMC. Over time, flooding problem has also come down. But yes, Suburban being the main transportation system, any major disruption can bring the city to a halt.
* Tell about Elphinstone Road stampede. What kind precautions have been taken by railway to stop these kind incidents?
-Elphinstone Road stampede was a very unfortunate tragedy which happened due to the circumstances at that time. But, to prevent that type of accidents in future, the Hon’ble MR has already sanctioned 24 FOB works. Apart from that, for management of crowd during peak hours RPF are already assigned over the bridges. We are also in the process of inducting Maharashtra Security Corp guards and Home guards. CCTV Camera is also been installed in all station which will immediately give alerts about high density. There will also be CCTV command centre.
* What is the next plan after running local AC?
-After local AC trains, as I have said there are a lot of projects in the pipe line and once the 5th and 6th line is commissioned, mail express load will be shifted on 5th and 6th line and we will have additional paths on the suburban lines. Apart from that, 9 more AC trains will be introduced in the next one year. Total of 20 lifts will be installed by year end. 32 Escalators have already been installed and another 25 are in the pipeline. All these will bring comfort in travelling.
* In crisis period local trains always did very good job. 1993 riots after bomb blast in Mumbai it did very good duty. Due to railway lacks of people reach their home safely. What do think?
-First of all Mumbai Division is blessed with the best of officers and the teamwork on Mumbai Division is unsurpassed. All officers are here to give their best. They all know that it is a tough posting and they come prepared to put aside their family and comfort and work day in and day out to make sure all the system function properly. The second thing is the discipline of Mumbaikars because of which there are no disruptions due to agitations.
* For security purpose railway is taking what kind steps? As you known that Mumbai is in hit list of the terrorist?
-There are two aspects; first is the security aspect with respect to petty crime and other is a crime against women. Mumbai division is very sensitized towards these issues. For women security, an app has been developed. Apart from that, we have ‘182’ helpline number which gives an immediate response. In fact, after 9 pm, ladies compartments are manned by GRP and women constables are also available at every station. They also take care of the petty crimes. So far is terrorism is concerned, we maintain liaison with the local police. We have also installed metal detectors in some stations and we also have a dog squad.
* How much you rate your department on discipline?
-I would give it 10 on 10 because I have not only observed discipline but also the hard work. Even if there is a small issue during the night hours, the officers respond immediately and reach control within 15 mins. Our staff is also very proactive and responds well all the time.
* How do you spend your leisure time?
-I like to spend time with my family and I love reading books, listening to music and watching films. I used to play badminton when I was young and I still play cricket match when I can.
* What message would you like to spread through India unbound to our readers, Mumbaikars and your department officials?
-For Mumbaikars, I would say that we are always dedicated towards making your journey more comfortable and convenient. To my department, I would say there is no substitute for hard work.