Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has expressed his desire to open up all posts of the rank of Additional Secretary and upwards in Indian Railways to all eight railway services, virtually abolishing cadre posts and merging the services into one seniority list.
The announcement — for what is being described in the bureaucracy as a “disruptive move” — came, oddly enough, during a day-long seminar on raising average speed of trains earlier this week. Principal Heads of Departments (PHoDs) and other senior railway officials, some 450 officers of the rank of Additional Secretary and upwards, were present at the event.
Goyal said that the process to discuss this internally should start, and a Cabinet note would be moved with the proposal after that. The Cabinet note will have to be vetted by the UPSC, DoPT and Finance Ministry.
Two Railway Board Members — Member (Traffic) and Member (Traction) — who are cadre-controlling authorities of the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) and Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE), respectively, objected to the proposal on the spot. The minister is learnt to have told them that they could communicate their views during internal deliberation.
The political dispensation, it is learnt, is of the view that the move would end “departmentalism” in senior bureaucracy, even though an officer from one specialised service is neither trained nor mandated to do the job meant for an officer of another specialised service. It was cited to officers that the Bibek Debroy Committee report on Indian Railways had advocated merger of cadres to address departmentalism.
Since Goyal pitched the move, various cadre-specific officers’ associations have been preparing their objections to it and are prepared to move court, sources said.
Officers who spoke to The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity said that the Bibek Debroy committee had advocated creation of two services — managerial and technical — and did not recommend merging of in-service, mid-career top-posts into one seniority list. “It is obvious that an accounts service officer cannot head a department meant for the mechanical engineering cadre and vice versa. This is a hare-brained idea,” said a senior officer.
Railways applies inter-services seniority to post officers such as General Managers in zones, a Higher Administrative Grade-Plus (HAG+) post which is below the rank of Secretary but higher than Additional Secretary. But posts of department heads are en-cadred posts. Even Board Member posts, except Chairman and Member (Staff), are all en-cadred posts. The government is deliberating turning the Member (Staff) post into a cadre post for Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS).
Internal calculation for a combined seniority list shows that a large number of officers would lose their seniority, while many others would supersede their seniors in services to bag posts that they otherwise would not have got. Officers said that those who would lose seniority would go to courts.
Civil servants tend to join service at an older age bracket than their engineering counterparts, as the mode of intake for the two is different. That is why, if a common seniority is applied, engineers would tend to emerge higher, leaving the civil servants behind — traditionally a cause of discontent among civil servants in Railways.
The Additional Secretary-rank posts are the PHoDs, who head each vertical in zones based on specialisation, like Principal Chief Engineer is meant for officers of Indian Railway Service of Engineers (IRSE), who are inducted through the government engineering service exam. Principal Chief Operations Manager is manned by an IRTS officer inducted through the UPSC civil services exam. There are similar verticals for accounts manned by Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) officers, Signalling and Telecom for Signalling Engineers cadre, Personnel Management for Personnel Service officers and so on. There are similar HAG posts for each cadre in the ministry looking after specialised functions.
The railways’ group A services include traffic, accounts, personnel in the civil services cadre; mechanical, electrical, civil, signalling, stores in the engineering services cadre; and the RPF, which is also a civil service cadre.