THE Railway Ministry is reconsidering a plan to merge eight different cadres of serving Group A officers to form a common seniority list of officers. Under a new plan, appointments to all general or “ex-cadre” posts, in which an officer from any department can be posted (Chairman, Railway Board, for example), might now be decided by a panel.
The Indian Express had reported in August a proposal to open up these top posts to a selection process irrespective of cadre, rather than promotion based on seniority. This had been communicated to officers’ associations in meetings with Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.
Based on this, the earlier idea was to merge around 8,400 serving officers from various cadres into a common seniority list and for an Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS). While the IRMS is still on the table, and there will not be any future recruitment in the existing cadres, serving officers won’t be merged.
The decision to set up an IRMS was taken by the Cabinet in December 2019, and it was tentatively targeted to be concluded and formalised by November this year. Sources said technically, there is time till December, although no formal target is currently being followed.
Resistance forces rethink
Officers from three services who are picked through UPSC entrance and are generally older had protested against a cadre merger, fearing it would hit their promotion prospects compared to their counterparts.
The merger proposal had seen resistance from Railway officers belonging to three of the services — Traffic, Personnel and Accounts — who are recruited through the UPSC Civil Services examination. The officers feared that a common seniority list would place them at a disadvantage in terms of promotion as compared to their Engineering Services counterparts. Civil servants are typically a few years older thanks to different qualities and modes of entrance exams for them as compared to the Engineering Services. They claim they miss out on top posts as they often don’t have enough service tenure left or are past the eligible age.
There was apprehension in government circles of officers filing lawsuits against the move.
As per the new proposal being considered, appointments to all 650-odd general posts or ex-cadre posts in the Indian Railways would be thrown open to selection by a panel. Apart from Chairman and members of the Railway Board, General Managers, Additional GMs and Divisional Railway Managers fall in this category.
Sources said officers will continue to get the promotions due to them within the departments in their respective cadres as part of natural career progression. However, they can also choose to compete for ex-cadre posts whenever eligible and go through the selection process. They will be termed IRMS officers, but they will continue to perform their respective specialised jobs in their departments. “This move is meant to ensure that no one misses out on career progression prospects,” said a senior Railway official.
The new proposal will be put up before a Committee of Secretaries and then a Group of Ministers headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah that had been formed to implement the earlier plan. While the success of the new proposal will eventually depend on the eligibility fixed for selection to ex-cadre posts, given that there is lesser complexity involved as compared to cadre merger, the process may be smoother.
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