In a move that is being hailed in the Railways Ministry as a step in the right direction, minister D V Sadananda Gowda has cut short the annual list of employees who receive awards from him for meritorious service.
What used to be a list of over 300 names till last year has now been reduced to 120 names. The Minister for Railways Award, also known as “MR Award” is given to employees for exceptional service. It is held every year to commemorate the first passenger train journey in India on April 16. This year the function will be held on Friday in Bangalore.
Putting an end to the annual “shower” of awards, comprising cash and citation, the number of officials to be awarded this year is only eight. Last year, the total list reached 320, of which 81 names were from the Rail Bhawan consisting, among others, staff car drivers, waiters, clerks, private secretaries, assistant private secretaries, protocol officers, directors, office supervisors and the like.]
Over the years, the awards system had faced allegations of favouritism, at the cost of excluding the truly deserving.
Data show that previous years’ lists had a disproportionate presence of those working in the Rail Bhawan. While the original idea was to draw up a list of the best 50, list kept getting longer. The old rule of giving the award to an employee only once in his lifetime was also overlooked in the past few years. Unlike the previous years, this year the list has a conspicuous presence of trackmen, gangmen, pointmen and the like – a move that is being welcomed in zonal railways.
In comparison, the number of train drivers or loco pilots numbered less than 10 last year. Trackmen, who ensure the safety of tracks and are killed every year in the line of duty, numbered only seven. Similar was the pattern of representation of gatemen, guards, assistant station managers, station masters and the like.
After drawing up a list of 290 awardees in 2013, the ministry had increased the list by 30 more names a few days later of which 24 were from the Rail Bhawan. The award entails a cash prize of Rs 7,000 but more importantly, the mention of the award in the service record of the awardee improves promotional avenues.