Starting this year, there are no Jamadars in the Railways anymore. Instead, they are now called Assistants. There are no Safaiwalas, either. They are now Housekeeping Assistants. Similarly, there are no more Dhobis, Chowkidars, Hamals, Bhistys, Cleaners, Khalasis, Peons, Cooks, Waiters or even Porters. They are all now Assistants, differentiated only by departments.
By finally changing how it officially designates its lakhs of footsoldiers, the country’s largest and one of the oldest employers has decided to abolish the remnants of its colonial past. This decision was taken and a notification circulated last month by the Railway Board after internal deliberations and consultations with recognised workers’ unions.
This means that, for instance, Cooks and Waiters are now Assistants (Catering). Likewise, Wash Boys, Chapati Makers, Tea/Coffee Makers, Bearers and Cleaners are Assistants (Canteen).
While preparing the list, officials found that some designations were as old as the organisation that was founded in 1853, even though the specific jobs may have evolved over time. So, Farrash, Lifter, Finder, Record Sorter, Sandeshwahak/ Messenger are now General Assistants.
“The revision in designation…will not entail change in the existing duties and responsibilities, appointment procedure, pay level, eligibility conditions prescribed…,” states the notification.
“There was dissatisfaction among workers. Many felt that some of these designations were demeaning in this day and age, while many were based on jobs that do not even exist… This is about dignity,” said Shiv Gopal Mishra, Secretary General, All Indian Railwaymen’s Federation, the largest union in the service.
According to Railway Board officials, the designations of these Group D (now Level 1) posts were meant in the past to align with the jobs involved, which was “a colonial hangover”. “In any case, the entry-level pay bands of these profiles had been merged into a single band in the Sixth Pay Commission, which was again termed Level 1 in the Seventh Pay Commission. Workers had been demanding uniformity in designations,” said a Railway Board official.
The only departments where the revised designations still identify the specific nature of the jobs are in track maintenance and safety. So, Trolleyman is Assistant (Trolley Operating), Pointsman remains Pointsman.