Air India Chief Ashwani Lohani was today appointed as the Chairman of the Railway Board, succeeding AK Mittal, who stepped down in the wake of recent train accidents.
Lohani, who belongs to the Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineers of the 1980 batch, has been touted as a ‘turnaround specialist’ for the public sector enterprises.
Lohani featured in Limca Record in 2007 for having four ‘engineering degree equivalents’ in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering and Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering from Institution of Engineers, India. Moreover, he has been a Non-Executive Director of Air Mauritius Limited since October 30, 2015.
Also, Lohani is a life member of the Institute of Rolling Stock Engineers and the Museums Association of India and the Founder cum Working President of the Indian Steam Railway Society.
He had joined Air India in late 2015 and has been engaged in giving shape to Air India's global expansion plans, at a time when the government had decided for a strategic divestment in the airline.
The 58-year-old had said that the ‘painful decision’ of divestment would open doors to a better future for the airline and its employees.
A renowned tourism professional and an acclaimed bureaucrat, Lohani had earlier worked as the Chief Mechanical Engineer of Northern Railway, Divisional Railway Manager of Delhi, MD and Commissioner of Madhya Pradesh Tourism, Director of National Rail Museum New Delhi, Director in the Union Ministry of Tourism, and the CMD of ITDC.
It is said that the engineer-turned-bureaucrat has not taken a free ticket either for himself or his family and continues to travel by railways.
When he took over as the chief of the national carrier, Lohani stopped the practice of being received at the airport by a battery of officials as he found it too feudal.
Known for working fearlessly, Lohani had stood up for a 60-year-old Air India employee, who was beaten up by Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad on board a few months ago.
At that time, Lohani showed he is a firm believer in the ‘employee first’ approach by ensuring that the MP is barred from travelling on Air India. He had even managed to get other airlines to stand in solidarity against Gaikwad.
He was also instrumental in getting UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and successfully running ‘The Fairy Queen Express’, the world’s oldest steam locomotive. He found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for it.