Several Railway officers spoke up against the proposed merger of services at a video conference with Chairman Railway Board VK Yadav and other Board Members held Thursday to get a sense of the effect of the massive administrative restructuring announced by the Cabinet earlier this week has had on the officers across the organisation.
Those who expressed their apprehension about the move—to merge all eight Group A railway services, five technical and three non-technical, into one—were mostly from the civil services working in zonal units, while top officers in the fields belonging to engineering services either remained silent or supported the move.
Sources said some service-specific officers’ associations have informally started exploring legal options as well even though nothing has crystallised as yet.
In the video conference, addressed to Group A officers, mostly who are in mid-management to upper management in zones, Yadav sought to allay their misgivings about the sudden move saying that both seniority and promotion prospects of officers post merger will be taken care of and that there was nothing to worry about. He is also learnt to have said that the merger of the existing officers does not mean that an officer working in one department will be asked to do the job of his counterpart in another department. Many participating officers said that they were given to understand that this outreach by the Railway Board and possibly also by the minister in the future will continue.
Need to address worries
The move seems to have taken officers down the ranks by surprise, and a large section of bureaucracy is apprehensive about their future, most of them civil servants. If the merger does not address these concerns, the big move runs the risk of turning against the very objective with which it was conceived.
Sources said he also pointed out to two junior officers who have been vocal against the move on social media past two days, and suggested that he would like to personally address their misgivings and that they could voice their opinions internally instead of on public platforms. The #NoToIRMS hashtag on Twitter has been tagged multiple times to posts on opposition to the move to merge all railway services into the new Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS).
Many present in the video conference said that the main point of contention was that once the services are merged, the engineering services would stand to gain more than the civil servants—Traffic, Accounts and Personnel—mainly because of the age disparity between the two; and that civil services cannot possibly be clubbed with engineering services.
“Engineers usually join the service in early 20s whereas the civil servant generally join a few years later. So in the same year’s batch, the engineering officer would be a few years younger than his civil servant counterpart. If they are merged, several officers stand to lose their seniority and promotion prospects,” an officer said. This is a contention the organisation has said will be addressed in a fair manner through the government’s alternate mechanism of Committee of Secretaries and Group of Ministers.
“As per DoPT rules, if you are a topper in your batch and I am a topper in my batch then the older among the two of us gets promotion. We will follow something similar. There is no need for anyone to worry. In fact I am going to say this to the young officers,” Yadav told The Indian Express Thursday.
One officer who spoke up during the meeting told The Indian Express that the move goes against recommendations of the Debroy Committee report that had suggested two services—technical and managerial—to avoid this situation. “Departmentalism in Railways never meant civil services versus the engineers. Departmentalism was mostly about rivalries between two or more engineering services,” he said.
Earlier in the day while interacting with the media, Yadav cited traditional rivalry between Electrical and Mechanical departments as an example of departmentalism.
An officer from an Engineering service told The Indian Express that the civil servants’ apprehensions were unfounded. “After 15-20 years of exposure to workings of the organisation, every officer has enough experience to get work done in any department. As an engineer, my job is mainly managerial in nature, which involves decision-making and running a team. It is not strictly technical. Look at heavy engineering organistions like BHEL, for instance. Many of them are headed by officers from civil services,” he said.
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