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The Ministry of Railways has announced the closure of the Indian Railways Organisation for Alternative Fuels (IROAF), an enterprise headquartered in New Delhi, that was formed exclusively to promote green energy by introducing alternative energy and fuel-efficient and emission-control technologies across the railway network.

“The Ministry of Railways has decided to close down the Indian Railways Organisation for Alternative Fuels with effect from September 7, 2021,” a Railway Board order said on Tuesday.

The existing work handled by IROAF — solar power and hydrogen fuel cell projects — was transferred to the Principal Chief Electrical Engineer and Chief Administrative Officer, Northern Railway. Placement and transfer of officers and staff would follow, the order said.

In keeping with its mission towards green railways, the IROAF had invited bids just last month in August for hydrogen fuel cell-based trains to start the concept of hydrogen mobility in the country along the 89-km Sonipat-Jind sector of Northern Railway. Two diesel electric multiple units and two hybrid locos were planned for conversion to hydrogen fuel cell power movement leading to a savings of Rs. 2.3 crore annually.

The IROAF was also working on research and development of projects relating to use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as a substitute to high-speed diesel to create a clean environment and reduce cost of transportation.

Stir against monetisation

The move to close down IROAF comes at a time when trade unions are protesting the “monetisation” policy of the Union government. The All India Railwaymen Federation president N. Kanniah said the Central government had no moral right to monetise assets of Indian Railways and other public sector undertakings.

The decision of the Centre to monetise railway and other government establishment assets for Rs. 6 lakh crore by leasing them for 35-99 years had created widespread resentment among the employees. Mr. Kanniah said 400 railway stations across the country, including Chennai Central and Chennai Egmore in Southern Railway, 90 superfast express trains, four hill train services, including the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and 1,400 km of railway track with overhead electrical equipment were among other infrastructure that were planned for monetisation by way of lease to private sector.

Mr. Kanniah said the concept of “privatisation” that later took shape as “corporatisation” was now being called “monetisation”. The move would not only lead to an increase in fares and services but withdrawal of facilities such as travel concessions given to eligible passengers, he said.

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