Service charge

40% reduction in officer strength as Indian Railways Management Service replaces 8 executives

Kolkata: The Ministry of Railways and the Railway Board (MR&RB) are finally translating into reality the two and a half year old Union Cabinet decision to have a unified service with a generic nomenclature called Indian Railway Management Service Group A (IRMS). This move puts an end to the “departmentalism” practiced for decades through eight departments including engineering, traffic, mechanics, electricity, etc.

The growing momentum, with preparations for the conduct of examinations under the Union Civil Service Commission (UPSC) as one of the highlights, has left sections of officers in doubt as to how “all this will unfold”. They attribute their predicament to a “lack of clarity on several points”. At the same time, some officers also see merit in what is happening, citing the observations of former Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, during which the IRMS proposal came to fruition.

Announcing the Union Cabinet’s decision on December 24, 2019, Goyal said: “Departmentalism was causing inefficiency, infighting over control of assets and resources. The current structure creates a culture of working in silos. ”

Prior to forming the IRMS, MR&RB consulted with the Union Government’s Personnel and Training Department and the UPSC, particularly on recruitments for the upcoming cycle.

In support of the expectation of efficiency resulting from business-like operation, the Center stated that newly recruited officers would be drawn from engineering and non-technical disciplines as needed and would be assigned based on their aptitude and of their specialization to enable them to specialize in one area, develop a global perspective and prepare them to take on senior management responsibilities.

The Gazette Notification – GSR 119 (E) of February 15, 2022, which listed framed rules for the administration of IRMS – sought to ensure Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST), other Backward Classes (OBC), the Economically Weaker Sections and the Disabled, stating that all such “terms” shall have the meanings respectively assigned to them in the Constitution or Acts of Parliament.

On the issue of reservation, relaxation of the age limit and other concessions, these categories of persons, as well as ex-servicemen and other special categories of persons, were assured that the orders and instructions issued by the government will continue to apply to them.

Officers appointed to IRMS are likely to be sent on delegation even to State/Union Territory Governments and public sector enterprises and self-governing state-controlled bodies. A probationary period of two years was made compulsory for any officer recruited directly or promoted (in junior time scale). If, even during an extended probationary period, a staff member is found unsuitable for permanent entry, the staff member may be removed from service or reinstated in the post held prior to promotion, as the case may be.

One provision of the probation rules is likely to prove irritating to state governments in southern India – applicants will have to pass exams and tests, among other things, “including a Hindi exam”. It remains to be seen whether the southern states require the Hindi exam stipulation to be dropped.

But the real concern for officers stems from the rather steep reduction in the number of Group A positions to around 5,200 from 8,300, a reduction of almost 40%. Without admitting it, the Center is trying to turn the Railways into a lean company that can make quick decisions and operate professionally.

Former Secretary General of the Indian Railway Promotee Officers’ Federation, Jitendra Singh, who spent 21 years in the organization, said: “In this competitive environment, if the railways are to be competitive and successful, they must provide by managing traffic efficiently, safely and at a reasonable cost. It seems the government agrees with expert studies that found the inverted pyramid-like structure.

The organization’s serving officials are pleased, saying it is too early to comment and conclude which sections of officers will benefit and which sections will not.

“We’ve asked senior brass for time to get clarification on many of the rules; we haven’t had time yet.”

The seven-week gazette clarifies that with the publication of the notification of February 15, 2022, the IRMS is constituted.

General Secretary of the Federation of Railway Officers, Samir Kumar, said NewsClick“We must consider the IRMS as part of the administrative reform, which is an ongoing process; no posts have been returned so far; moreover, after a two-year hiatus, recruitment has resumed on a modest. However, we need clarification on several matters.”

Others NewsClick spoke and who do not want to be recorded, believe that the sharp reduction in the number of Group A officers should be reconsidered; a modest cut will be a better option. The new arrangement may mean that opportunities for promotion are reduced. It’s a career issue; they argued that prospects for progression should be built into performers.

The question of privatization also surfaced, given the declared intention of the Union government. However, Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, in his response to the discussion at Lok Sabha on Wednesday March 16, on railway grant applications, said: “The track, the stations, the locomotives, the coaches , the signaling system all belong to the Railways. There is no mention anywhere of privatization.

Vaishnaw also quoted his predecessor Goyal in this regard. Goyal had said that an organization as complex as the railways cannot be privatized

Interestingly, the ET ratio in March 17 edition on the discussion and the Minister’s response cited Vaishnow as illustrating the Centre’s position “that Indian Railways cannot be privatized as a whole”.

This, when read between the lines, may suggest that the Center may be open to piecemeal privatization of activities/services which are absolute in themselves, which may be treated as independent.

It is worth quoting former Railway Board staff member K Balakesari who, in an article by The Hindu, observed, “Indian Railways is poised to migrate to Public-Private Partnership…/Joint Venture… mode or outright privatization in its major activities such as operation of a train, asset maintenance, station management, project management… .. and medical services All domain expertise… will remain in the private sector, supported by managers and technical staff from management at lower levels. Research and technical training establishments could be transformed into autonomous institutions”. The residual organization will be in the hands of “a free-wheeling cadre of managers, essentially functioning as contract administrators”.

New Delhi has already reduced the number of members of the Railway Board to four (excluding the chairman) from eight through merger, renaming and elimination of disciplines/streams.

The four members are responsible for finance, infrastructure, traction and rolling stock, and operations and business development. Although the first among equals, the president was the president. In the new arrangement, the President has also been designated as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and responsible for human resources with a Chief Executive Designated Officer to assist the President and Chief Executive Officer with HR functions. This means that the powers of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer have been greatly extended.

For memory : The unification of disciplines/frameworks had been advocated by several expert committees chaired by Prakash Tandon (1994), Rakesh Mohan (2001), Sam Pitroda (2012) and Bibek Debroy (2015). Moreover, the issue has also been researched by Niti Aayog.