Indian Railways Facts & Figures: Air India In The Making

If there is a singular way of knowing how defunct and dysfunctional Indian State is, it is through Indian Railways. If there is any time any more proof required that Indian State messes up everything that it engages in, look at Indian Railways. Indian Railways is symptomatic of what ails the Indian State; rather it is a microcosm of Indian State in every way.

Indian Railways does not have a profit and loss statement for public consumption. It has some weird hybrid method of accounting, where it shows the working expenses sans the salaries to arrive at the operating ratio.

I stumbled upon the Indian Railways Facts & Figures 2016-17. It is the latest report available on the internet, with the 2017-18 account either hidden or unpublished. The numbers presented in the report are scandalous. I have given below some of the snap-shots.

Salary and Pension Expenses

Ever wondered how much Indian Railways spends on the salaries? I have gone through the budget documents but it is not mentioned anywhere. It seems to be a well-guarded secret. Somehow, it gets mentioned in the Indian Railways Facts & Figures 2016-17. Wage Bill for 2016-17 is Rs 1,152,713 million. Gross Traffic Receipts in the same year is Rs 1,652,922 million. Meaning, it is spending 69.73% of its income on just paying the salaries.

The budget document of 2018-19 shows the actual spend on pension fund in 2016-17. Appropriation to the pension fund in 2016-17 is Rs 350000 million.

Adding up the salary bill and pension bill, it becomes 1,502,713 million. Indian Railways spent 90.91% of its income in 2016-17 on paying its current and past employees. This means that Indian Railways is run just for paying its work-force, leave aside fuel/capital expenditure/spending on safety/passenger convenience/repairs/whatever.

Average annual wage per employee

Average annual wage per employee in 1980-81 was Rs. 8,435. And this becomes Rs. 883,495 in 2016-17. It means that the average employee was getting paid Rs 73000/- per month in 2016-17. Add the perks of free railway travel and free accommodation, the cost per employee will be more than a lac per month.

Even more curiously, average annual wage per employee was Rs 394,112 in 2010-11 and it becomes Rs 883,495 in 2016-17. The average annual wage per employee more than doubled in about 6 years.

This explains the mad rush for Indian Railways jobs that more than 2 Cr people apply for 90,000 jobs.

Wage bill and Traffic unit per employee

The total wage bill of Rs 13,167 million in 1980-81 becomes Rs 1,152,713 million in 2016-17. The increase is 87 times. The traffic unit per employee in 1980-81 was 244 and in 2016-17, it was 1,444. The increase is 6 times. The efficiency rose 6 times and the wage bill increased 87 times.

The route increase/decrease

The total route length was 61,240 km in 1980-81. This becomes 67,368 km in 2016-17. The route length increased by 6,128 km in 36 years.

Now, there is also another data-point of double/multiple track which is a subset of total route length. Double/multiple track increased from 13,040 km in 1980-81 to 22,021 km in 2016-17, increase of 8,981 km.

Deducting 8,981 km from 6,128 km means that the route shrunk by 2,853 km of single track. Indian Railways is actually not increasing the foot-print, but bringing it down wherever it is working on Meter Gauge and Narrow Gauge. It is not replacing it with Broad Gauge.

Indian Railways missing the train on freight

In 2016-17, Coal, Iron ores, Cement, Fertilizers, Iron & Steel, Limestone & Dolomite, Stones other than marble contributed 77% of the freight revenue.

Indian Railways carries the freight that it carried since the British Raj. The vegetables, the chiller and freezer products, foodgrains etc have bypassed the Indian Railways.

It seems more like a fossil carrying the fossilized freight.


The Indian State will, of course, know more about the vegetative status of Indian Railways. The fact that Indian Railways is hardly able to pay for the salaries and pension, it may not be able to actually do so in 2018-19. However, what is to be expected when the agency, the Indian State, having the responsibility to cure the ailment, itself is responsible to bring the patient, Indian Railways, in such a precarious situation and worsening it further.

PS: Indian Railways has budgeted gross traffic receipts of 200840 Cr in 2018-19. Appropriation to Pension Fund is 47500 Cr. Almost 1/4th of the income will be used to pay the pensions, leave aside the salaries. At this rate, it will be unable to pay the pension itself in some time to come.

Air India has a companion and it is called Indian Railways. Though, Indian Railways can claim to keep its travellers healthy, as it cannot invest in escalators. It can claim to have the same job description of TTE that existed when a certain MK Gandhi was travelling on the train.

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