Since the days of the Raj, Railways officers have retained Group D workers as domestic staff. But now, following an intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Railways Ministry has decided to review the practice.
Known as Telephone Attendant cum Dak Khalasis (TADK), or bungalow peons, the staff are employed as domestic help by the officers. A TADK is absorbed as a permanent government employee in Group D category on completion of three years. A temporary TADK gets about Rs 16,000 per month, while a permanent TADK gets about Rs 22,000 with benefits. The process is seen as a legitimate way of granting government jobs through the back door. Applicants have to pass at least Class VIII to apply for such posts.
The PMO is now keen to grant an allowance instead of letting officers retain the staff as domestic help. So, the Railways has constituted a joint secretary-level committee of nine members of the Railway Board to review the policy. It has communicated to the PMO that the desired change will be implemented after the committee submits its recommendations. The committee is expected to conduct field tours and consultations with stakeholders, including TADKs.
Sources said the committee has not yet held deliberations on the matter and it facing resistance because no officer wants to lose this perk. There are over 6,000 officers at various grades who are entitled to retain such staff, and an estimated 95 per cent of them avail of this facility. The officers include members of the Railway Board. Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee had lowered the minimum qualification for TADKs from Class X to VIII, while Lalu Prasad had extended the facility to officers posted in the Railway Board.
“Complaints of mistreatment of TADKs at the houses of some top officers reached the PM’s cell a few months back. The matter was discussed in the PMO after that,” said a top Railways Ministry source.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express reveal a case of disciplinary action against a TADK, with accounts of mistreatment of a domestic help at the residence of a former Railway Board additional member. There have been different allegations — salaries being withheld, no holidays being granted, 18-hour days, use of abusive language and even manhandling.
“The officers know that the lure of permanent government employment after three years will stop us from complaining,” said a Group D worker who had given a written complaint a few years back.
Meanwhile, the official explanation given by Railways is that since an officer may be posted in remote areas or may have to work during odd hours, a TADK would ensure security for his family.
“A railway officer works 24×7. It’s not just clearing files. He has field duties for running trains, overseeing loadings, etc. So keeping a person at home takes care of a lot of things. It’s also a necessity and we need people to do that job. The Army has it, the police also have it,” said Arunendra Kumar, Chairman Railway Board.