December 28, 2019 8:00:12 am
The merger of three non-technical and five technical railway services into a single Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) has created much discontent among non-technical officials, who are now planning to flood the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary, Railway Minister, Railway Board chairman and Department of Personnel & Training with representations opposing the decision.
A three-hour-long video conference by the chairman of Railway Board (CRB) Thursday evening in the matter has reportedly failed to allay fears and restore the confidence of officers from traffic, personnel and accounts services over the recently announced merger, and instead left many seething.
Identical letters, written on postcards, have described the merger a “unilateral” decision taken without proper representation from non-technical railway officers inducted through civil services and urged the government to give then an option to change their services if the merger was to continue. Around 10,000 post cards have been sent from different parts of the country, officers have claimed.
“How can the CRB, in a video conference with all railway officers, claim that traffic officers do nothing. That they don’t maintain or nurture any assets. That they don’t footplate or visit accident sites, they don’t do inspections, etc. It is very partisan and demotivating,” said an official after attending the video conference.
Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal, while announcing the merger of the eight services Thursday, had called the decision “unanimous”, taken with overwhelming support from all officers during a two-day-long discussion to work out measures to end “departmentalism” during Parivartan Sanghoshti, held on December 7 and 8.
Officers, however, have pointed out that the Sanghoshti had 12 teams, each headed by general managers, all of whom were from Indian Engineering Services (IES), with little or no representation from the officers of traffic, accounts and personnel, who together form the managerial and administrative backbone of the organisation. They further stated that no minutes of the meeting was issued.
Among the eight services in railways, accounts, personnel and traffic officials are selected through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which can be taken by people from ‘non-technical’ and humanities background. Electrical, engineering, stores, mechanical, signalling and telecom (S&T) officers are selected through Indian Engineering Service (IES).
With just three GMs out of the total 27 in Indian Railways (IR) from UPSC, which has a strength of 2,500, officers have urged that they should be given a right to get absorbed into another civil service.
A senior official from railways said, “The Bibek Debroy Committee’s report pointed out that a single service is not feasible unless all come from the homogeneous background. The recommendation was that there should be two services – one technical and another non-technical, which should be done.”
Officers, in their letters, pointed out that recruits from UPSC have the acumen for managerial and administrative posts and that “…merging technical and non-technical services will devalue the managerial post, which acts as guidance of public funds for the public good”.
Further, the average age of non-technical officers at entry via UPSC is 27 years, while those from engineering are between 23-24 years when they come into the service.
“How can the two services be put at par when the exams are totally different and so is the nature of their work. It will greatly affect young officers who have just entered the service, who will work as much to run the system, but will have poor promotional prospects and end up stagnating,” said another officer.
The officers in their representation further pointed out that the creation of a unified IRMS was against the principal of natural justice to change the condition of their services against what they were recruited for by UPSC. A senior official from railway board said, “Once the service rules have been laid down on which the eight services have been functioning so far, the changes cannot be made to these rules in a way that is detrimental to an officer’s services prospect. We will see how things workout.” Those in personnel department, which has merely 250 direct officers, are mulling over to urge the government to allocate them the second optional service which they had selected during UPSC.
The officers have demanded that a meeting should be called with Minister of Railways, Secretary of Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and Cabinet Secretary and all civil service officers of railways to discuss the pros and cons of the merger. They have also urged that there should be two different services, one technical for engineers and the other non-technical for civil servants.