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Four months after search began, bullet train firm yet to get MD

Almost four months after the railway ministry set in motion the process to get a managing director and three directors- for electricals, finance and systems- for the National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC) that will build the Rs 97636 crores Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train, the posts are yet to be filled up. The applications for these posts were invited in mid-September and a search-cum-selection committee headed by Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha was supposed to shortlist and finalise the names.

While railway ministry officials said that only the Cabinet Secretariat could give answer to why the posts hadn’t be filled up as yet, a query sent by DNA to Cabinet Secretariat director Indrani Gupta had not been answered till the time of going to the press. The NHSRC, formed on February 12 last year, is the nodal agency to execute the project and also coordinate with the state government of Gujarat and Maharashtra, each of which will have 25 percent stake in the company.

DNA in its August 19 edition had front-paged an article on the NHSRC without full-time directors despite being registered under the Companies Act, 1956 way back in February 2016. At the time of incorporating the company, the railways had appointed Girish Pillai, then additional member (catering and infra), Railway Board, PV Vaidialingam, adviser (commercial and accounting reforms), Railway Board and Mukul Saran Mathur . executive director, PPP, Railway Board as the first three temporary directors.

Since then Pillai has been promoted as general manager of the Jabalpur-headquartered West Central Railway and his place in the NHSRC has been taken up by 1982 batch Indian Railway Service of Engineers (IRSE) officer Achal Khare.

A host of pre-construction work like geo-technical and geo-physical investigations into the 21 km tunnel of the project as well as the Final Location Survey to mark the alignment right down to the pillars on which the high speed trains will run have started. The Lidar survey- a technique that uses radar and lasers to map a rail route-is another major part of the work and will be carried out along with the Land Acquisition survey.

The slow-moving bullet train:

October 2013- joint feasibility study by railways and Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the project

July 2015- JICA submits feasibility study report to the railways

December 2015- the PM-led Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs approves the project after preliminary vetting by the NITI Aayog

December 2015- Government of India and Japan sign a Memorandum of Understanding finalising the loan for the project

February 2016- The National High Speed Rail Corporation is registered under the Companies Act, 1956