TWO DAYS before he was to officially retire from service, the government gave Railway Board Chairman AK Mital a “reappointment” to the same post for a period of two years in a first of its kind move for the national transporter.
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, communicated the decision around midday Friday — which would have been Mital’s last working day — a few hours before his scheduled retirement function at Rail Bhawan.
Mital will remain in office till July 2018 with a combined tenure of 43 months, making him the longest serving Chairman Railway Board (CRB) in history, a month more than the first chairman, F C Bhadhwar, who was in office from 1951-54.
The language of the ACC order, which uses the term “reappointment” instead of “extension”, has left the rail bureaucracy wondering. Sources said since the order came on the last working day of his service, and since the first working day in his new tenure falls on Monday, a day after his official retirement, the move is being termed a “reappointment” and not “extension”.
It is learnt that the two-year extra tenure has been given considering that the government is in the process of a
massive overhaul of the railway governance mechanism and that new rules governing top-level appointments of
Divisional Railway Managers, General Managers and Board Members are being considered by the ACC and PMO. Mital is expected to handhold the transition into the new system, sources said.
“No comments from my side, please,” Mital told The Indian Express after his reappointment.
Mital is a 1976-batch officer of the Indian Railway Stores Service. He already held the distinction of being the first from this service to get the top job.
What worked for Mital, sources said, was the fact that going by the existing rules of succession, no one in Railways qualified for the top job.
Member Staff Pradeep Kumar had less than a year of service left, when the rules require a minimum of one year. Member Traffic Mohammad Jamshed, who has two years left, did not fulfill another criteria of having been a Board member for a certain amount of time and was also junior in the General Manager’s panel of inter-services seniority. Name of an officer of the Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers, currently posted outside Railways, was also in contention.
Several senior officers, including at least one working General Manager, had also represented to the Cabinet Secretariat for the top job. One of them even threatened to go to court. According to top sources, the government ultimately picked Mital, giving him the benefit of discretion.