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Indian Railway Accounts Service: History Of IRAS

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History Of IRAS

The growth and genesis of the service can be traced to the Acworth Committee report and becomes evident from these significant recommendations which are quoted below:

" We recommend that the Finance Department should cease to control the internal finances of the Railways; that the Railways should have a separate Budget of their own, be responsible for earning and expending their own income and for providing such net revenues as is required to meet the interest on debt incurred on or to be incurred by the Government for Railways purposes; and that the Railways Budget should be presented to the Legislative Assembly not by the Finance minister of the council but by the member in charge of the Railways." Paras 74, 76 and 127 of the Acworth Committee report

" We recommend, that subject to independent audit by Government of India, the Railways Department should employ its own accounting staff and be responsible for its own accounts. We think that the present account and statistics should be thoroughly overhauled and remodeled with the assistance of experts familiar with recent practices in other countries." Paras 129-134 of Acworth Committee Report

" We recommend that greater facilities should be provided for training Indians for the superior posts in Railway service and that the process of their employment in such posts should be accelerated." Paras 182-184 of Acworth Committee Report

It further goes on to recommend that the "title of Railway Board be replaced by the title of Railway Commission and that under the member of Council for Communications there should be 4 commissioners and that out of the 4, one should be in charge of Finance and the organization ..."

With these recommendations not only was the segregation of Railway Finance clearly established, but the office of the Financial Commissioner was envisaged in an embryonic manner, and accordingly, the first Financial Commissioner was appointed on 1 April 1923. The necessity of such an appointment was thus emphasized by the Acworth Committee, The large financial responsibility of the department being perhaps sufficient justification in itself for the addition to the organization of a member competent to advise on the questions of great financial magnitude.

Accordingly, from 1 April 1929, the responsibility for the compilation of accounts for the Railways was taken over by the Financial Commissioner, Railways from the Auditor General. The Accounts organisation was thus brought under the control of the Financial Commissioner, Railways, and the Indian Railway Accounts Service was constituted simultaneously.

The Indian Railways IR has been a vital component of the social, political and economic life of the country. IR's transportation network has played a key role in weaving India into a nation. This network has not only integrated markets but also people across the length and breadth of this huge country. IR's role in times of war and natural calamities has also been commendable: it has always risen to the occasion and transported men and materials in large numbers at short notice. It is because of these reasons that IR is one of the foremost institutions of the country today. At the same time, because of a series of developments in the 1990s, IR is today on the verge of a financial crisis. Urgent action is needed to revitalise it so that it can continue to serve the nation.

... These tendencies became accentuated in the 1990s and the economics of IR are now extremely vulnerable. For first time in 17 years last year IR was not able to pay a dividend to the government on its past investment. It is in financial crisis. Its ability to invest adequately in providing efficient and cost competitive services in the future is seriously in question. Thus IR is in a watershed period in its history today and therefore drastic action needs to be taken in a number of areas to make this august organisation the country's pride once again.

Recently, Finance department of Railways has embarked upon computerising its whole accounting and finance functions by implementing a customised software called AFRES Advance Finance Railway Earning & Expenditure System.

Firsts in IRAS -
First IRAS Officer Mr C T Venugopal, IRAS, 1930
First IRAS Financial Commissioner Mr K S Bhandari, IRAS, 1939
First IRAS officer secretary to Government of India Mr Y T Shah, IRAS, 1944
First IRAS General Manager Mr R Narsimhan, IRAS, 1955
First Lady IRAS Officer Mrs Priya Prakash, IRAS, 1957

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