September 21: It has been three years since the 34-kilometre Janakpur-Jayanagar railway came into operation. However, Nepal has not been able to prepare its own manpower for the operation of the railway.
The railway service, which links the border region of Nepal and India, started operation on September 18, 2020.
Even though the train was officially launched three years ago, the train could not start regular operation due to the lack of technical staff. Later, the government entered into an agreement with India’s Konkan Railway Corporation Limited and has been running the train by bringing in the employees working there. The government is still not able to prepare its own manpower to run the train.
After taking consent from the Ministry of Law and the Public Service Commission to appoint permanent staff for the operation of the railway, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport has sent the file to the Ministry of Finance for final approval.
Sources in the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure say that the Ministry of Finance has not yet agreed to this proposal. Arjun Jung Thapa, joint secretary of the ministry, said that the appointment of permanent staff is still in the process as the Council of Ministers needs to decide on such matters.
He admitted that the government has not been able to prepare the human resources required to operate the train.
"Either the government should not talk about operating the train or it should make proper preparations. We set up the Nepal Railway Company so that we won’t have to rely on others to operate the train,” said Thapa.
According to him, the company needs hundreds of more human resources including loco pilot, co-pilot, station manager, train leak maintenance manpower, IT expert for signals, electrical manager among others.
He said that the ministry cannot recruit the manpower at its will because it requires decision from the Council of Ministers. The consent of the Public Service Commission is also required for the appointment of permanent staff. The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure has not yet received the consent from the Ministry of Finance even after sending the file with the consent of the Ministry of Law and the Public Service Commission. Thapa added that after it will be possible to use the home-grown manpower after approval from the Ministry of Finance and the Council of Ministers.
“Even now, the Indian company Konkan Railway Corporation is running the train with its manpower,” said Thapa.
The employees of the Indian company are working on the basis of monthly salary. "Here, our engineer's salary is just Rs 40,000 to 45,000 per month, but we have given Indian engineers a monthly salary of Rs 450,000 per person," he said, "There are 17 people who take that much amount."
The ministry has hinted that the train service may be closed due to this situation and lack of budget. An annual income of Rs 90 million is generated by operating the train while the cost of operation is Rs 200 million.