Air India chief Ashwani Lohani appointed as new Chairman of Railway Board

Ashwani Lohani
Ashwani Lohani
Air India Chairman & Managing Director Ashwani Lohani, an officer of the 1980 batch of the Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME), has been appointed as the new Chairman of the Railway Board in place of Mr. A. K. Mital, who has resigned in the wake of two major train accidents in four days.
"The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Shri Ashwani Lohani, IRSME (80), CMD, Air India, as Chairman, Railway Board vice Shri A. K. Mital," a notification from the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) said.
"Necessary communication in this regard has been sent to the Ministry of Railways," it said.
Mr. Lohani had been appointed as the CMD of national carrier Air India on August 20, 2015. He was at that time on deputation to the Government of Madhya Pradesh, where he was serving as the Commissioner of Tourism and Managing Director of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.
Mr Lohani had earlier served as Chairman and Managing Director of India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC).
In the Railways, he has held positions such as Chief Mechanical Engineer, Northern Railway, Divisional Railway Manager of Delhi and Director, National Rail Museum, New Delhi.
Mr. Mital had been reappointed to the position of Chairman, Railway Board for a period of two years with effect from August 1, 2016. He was earlier appointed as Chairman, Railway Board on December 31, 2014. Prior to that, he was Member Staff, Railway Board. Earlier, he served as General Manager of South Western Railway (SWR), Hubli and was also looking after the additional charge of General Manager, South Central Railway (SCR) whose headquarters are in Secunderabad. He also held charge as General Manager, Central Railway, Mumbai and General Manager, Southern Railway, Chennai for some time.
Mr. Mital met Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu earlier in the day and is understood to have submitted his resignation in view of the two major rail mishaps since Saturday.
These developments took place even as Mr. Prabhu himself met Prime Minister Narendra Modi here today and is understood to have offered to resign, taking full moral responsibility for the accidents, including the derailment of the Utkal Express on Saturday in which 21 people died and 97 suffered injuries.
"I met the Hon'ble Prime Minister @narendramodi taking full moral responsibility. Hon’ble PM has asked me to wait," Mr. Prabhu said on micro-blogging site Twitter, hours after 12 coaches and engine of the the 12225 Azamgarh-Delhi Kaifiyat Express derailed in Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh after a dumper collided with the train at an unauthorised crossing in the early hours of today.
While Mr. Prabhu did not explicity state that he had offered to resign, the wording of the tweet clearly suggested that he had done so and that Mr. Modi had asked him to wait.
"I am extremely pained by the unfortunate accidents, injuries to passengers and loss of precious lives. It has caused me deep anguish," Mr. Prabhu said.
"In less than three years as Minister, I have devoted my blood and sweat for the betterment of the Railways," he said in the first of five tweets.
"Undr leadership of PM, tried 2 overcome decades of neglect thru systemic reforms in all areas leading 2 unprecedented investment& milestones," he said.
"New India envisioned by PM deserves a Rlys which is efficient and modern. I promise that is the path, on which Rlys is progressing now," he said.
On Saturday evening, the 18477 Utkal Express was on its way from Puri in Odisha to Haridwar in Uttarakhand when it derailed at derailed at Khatauli, about 25 km from Muzzafarnagar, in Uttar Pradesh.
On Sunday, a day later, the Ministry of Railways suspended four officials and sent three top officials, incuding Railway Board Member Engineering Aditya Mittal, on leave.
Official sources said that, based on prima facie evidence, the Junior Engineer (Permanent Way), the Senior Section Engineer (PW) and the Assistant Engineer of the concerned section as well as the Senior Divisional Engineer (II), Delhi Division of Northern Railway had been placed under suspension.
They said that, apart from Mr. Mittal, a Secretary-level officer, the General Manager (GM) of Northern Railway, Mr. R. N. Kulshreshtha, and the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of Delhi Division, Northern Railway, Mr. R. N. singh, had been sent on leave. The Chief Track Engineer of Northern Railway has been transferred.
Mr. M. C. Chauhan, General Manager, North Central Railway, will look after the duties of the post of General Manager, Northern Railway, while Mr. Anshul Gupta, Executive Director (Telecom Development), Railway Board has been temporarily posted as DRM, Delhi Division, the sources said.
The stern measures came hours after Mr. Prabhu said earlier that day that laxity would not be allowed in the Railways' operations and that he had asked the Chairman, Railway Board, to fix responsibility on the basis of prima facie evidence today itself.
"Will not allow laxity in operations by the Board. Have directed CRB to fix responsibility on prima facie evidence by end of day," he had said on micro-blogging site Twitter.

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