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Counting losses, Railways may stop paying for counting cash

Old rule allows cashiers to earn extra money, sometimes more than salaries.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
October 1, 2014 2:34:31 am
Northern Railway alone has paid its cash-counting staff Rs 18 crore since 2008. Each cashier was making between Rs 1 lakh and 4 lakh per year through honorariums.  Source:  C R Sasikumar Northern Railway alone has paid its cash-counting staff Rs 18 crore since 2008. Each cashier was making between Rs 1 lakh and 4 lakh per year through honorariums. Source: C R Sasikumar

Indian Railways is set for a battle against its cashiers who want to retain an archaic rule that allows them to sometimes earn more than their salaries in extra money just for counting cash. The Railways gives its cashiers these honorariums over and above the salary and other benefits.

Over the years, however, the amount thus paid has kept swelling. Northern Railway alone has paid its cash-counting staff Rs 18 crore since 2008. Each cashier was making between Rs 1 lakh and 4 lakh per year through honorariums.

After the Dussehra holidays, the Central Administrative Tribunal in New Delhi will hear a plea from cashiers in Delhi, Hajipur, Allahabad and Kolkata, who want to scuttle a move by the Railways Ministry to cap such honorarium at 25 per cent of basic pay. The argument Railways is going to make is that honorarium “cannot be a source of profit”. The order was passed in 2013 and Railways is currently in the process of reviewing it.

Different Railways zones have different yardstick for cashiers to be eligible for this payment. But generally, it is Rs 27 for every Rs 2,800 of cash counted in an hour by one cashier, above Rs 4.5 lakh. Recently, after the launch of the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, officials reasoned with cashiers that now that everyone in the country is likely to have a bank account, disbursing money in cash would be redundant.

The honorarium rule has been there since the ’70s. In those days cashiers needed to travel to far-off places carrying large amounts of cash to pay railway employees. Over the years, with proliferation of banks and ATMs, the rule became redundant but still kept costing the Railways because of influence of unions.

“It is a cashier’s hard-earned money. Fine if Railways wants to cap it to 25 per cent, but no one can question the need for such honorariums because cashiers in Railways function under difficult conditions,” said Shiv Gopal Mishra, Secretary General of All India Railwaymen’s Federation.

According to Railway Board, the solution to this issue is to make cashier jobs extinct. It has been decided that existing vacancies will not be filled and the job will cease to exist in a few of years.

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