The Railway Board has proposed that recruitment in the Indian Railways should be delinked from the Civil Services Examination and the national transporter should be run only by engineers and technocrats, with no place for non-engineers or civil servants at the top.
The proposal, to be deliberated by the board on Wednesday, prompted the civil services cadres to form a separate union and submit a memorandum in protest on Tuesday.
At present, the Railways management comprises five engineering services and three civil services cadres. The board now wants to induct all the services through the Engineering Services Exam (ESE) — thereby making it impossible for non-engineers to qualify for an officer’s post.
To protest against the move, the civil services cadres — Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS), Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS), Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) — along with the Railway Protection Force (RPF) have formed the Indian Railway Civil Services Officers Association (IRCSOA), breaking away from the Federation of Railway Officers’ Association, which was the only platform for all Group A officers in Railways so far.
“The proposed system means the existing eight organised services will continue to maintain their distinct character with only one substantive difference at recruitment level. The difference is: non-engineers will be debarred from aspiring to these three railway services (Traffic, Accounts and Personnel),” says the proposal. It claims that the proposed system will “reduce inter-departmental conflicts”.
Opposing the move, the IRCSOA, in its memorandum, said: “Railways is not just a project-based technical organisation. The civil servants bring to the table skill sets drawn from multiple fields, thereby strengthening the managerial capacity of the organisation. Therefore, to limit the recruitment to Engineering Services (Exam) alone would severely impair the organisation’s capacity to perform.”
In fact, the board’s proposal itself says, “It is not clear whether it would be feasible to recruit personnel for what is essentially non-technical work of HR, finance, and operations/ marketing from a technically oriented exam of the ESE.”
The civil servants have urged the board to implement the suggestions of the latest Bibek Debroy committee, which had recommended creation of two separate services — technical and management.
With five of the seven Railway Board members, including its chairman, belonging to the engineering services, the proposal is being viewed as a concerted effort by the engineers to take over the running of the Railways.
The Railway Board proposal has to be approved by the Railways Minister, after which it will be sent to the Department of Personnel and Training. The matter will then be referred to the Committee of Secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary, after which it will be sent to the Cabinet for approval.