Apprehensions in Indian Railways over restructuring!

:: M Y Siddiqui ::

Restructuring of railways and merger of service cadres follow Prakash Tandon Committee report of 1994 followed by Rakesh Mohan Committee of 2002, Sam Pitroda Committee of 2012, Sreedharan Committee of 2014 and Debroy Committee of 2015, all pressing for restructuring of Railway Board with the Chairman redesignated from the existing first among equals with a clearly redefined role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on functional corporate lines from the existing departmental operational mechanism. Vinod Kumar Yadav, who retired on December 31, 2019 as Chairman Railway Board, has since been re-employed for one year as the first CEO of Indian Railways. He has been tasked to oversee and accomplish all the dirty works of corporatization and merger of seniority groups of eight amalgamated cadres, which a regular serving officer will find it difficult to perform the most challenging onerous tasks of privatization.

With the decision of the Union Cabinet on December 24, 2019, restructuring of the Railway Board in the Ministry of Railways has begun amidst apprehensions of downsizing of Indian Railways on corporate lines and in tune with the emerging globalization of the country’s economy and market forces. Accordingly, eight-member Railway Board is being halved to four-member Board with the Chairman redesignated as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Indian Railways, merger of eight civil services cadres, largely belonging to diverse engineering and technological services, financial and operational cadres into a single whole to be called Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS) through single examinations by the UPSC and the cadre of Railway Protection Force being redesignated as Indian Railways Security Service. With such decisions now under implementation, deck is clear for corporatization of the railways on private lines.

Currently, Group “A” services are recruited through two streams of competitive examinations, Combined Civil Services Examinations and Combined Engineering Services Examinations by the UPSC. There are misgivings galore among the personnel of all the cadres about their aspirations over assured career progression. Added to this, a segment of mechanical engineers is recruited through Railway Apprentice Special Class Examination by the UPSC for the 12th pass candidates, who, after qualifying, are admitted to the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical Engineering, Jamalpurand following their graduation form part of Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineering (IRSME). It is to be seen how each of the individual member in all the eight cadres is adjusted without disturbing his/her inter se seniority based on merit list in each existing cadre, while ensuring career progression formula and related motivational factors in the Indian Railways Management Service, currently under formulation.

Restructuring of railways and merger of service cadres follow Prakash Tandon Committee report of 1994 followed by Rakesh Mohan Committee of 2002, Sam Pitroda Committee of 2012, Sreedharan Committee of 2014 and Debroy Committee of 2015, all pressing for restructuring of Railway Board with the Chairman redesignated from the existing first among equals with a clearly redefined role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on functional corporate lines from the existing departmental operational mechanism. Vinod Kumar Yadav, who retired on December 31, 2019 as Chairman Railway Board, has since been re-employed for one year as the first CEO of Indian Railways. He has been tasked to oversee and accomplish all the dirty works of corporatization and merger of seniority groups of eight amalgamated cadres, which a regular serving officer will find it difficult to perform the most challenging onerous tasks of privatization. Ultimately, it will turn into Indian Railways Corporation headed by a CEO with the Ministry of Railways continuing as a façade for policy decisions and public accountability in keeping with the rule of law based system of democratic governance, in the process increasing the rail services cost to the nation thus depriving general people of affordable means of bulk transportation. In this context, such decisions are anti-people.

It may be recalled that with the then Union Government deciding to implement Prakash Tandon Committee report in 1994, a sub-committee led by A.N. Shukla, a retired Chairman of Railway Board, shot down the proposal for merger of existing Group “A” services as “non-workable”, ostensibly to end the so-called departmentalism to ensure well integrated coordinated thrust to the functioning of the railways to augment, modernize and maximize its overall productivity. The then Union Government had accepted Shukla Sub-committee report allowing status quo with a rider that coordinative mechanism at the Railway Board, Zonal and Divisional levels needed to be streamlined further for a better rail services to the nation. Reasons that favoured rejection of Tandon Committee recommendations then exist now as well. Single integrated service cadre, therefore, will not serve the intended objectives of the current NDA Union Government resulting in rail services going haywire. This will also affect zonal and divisional railways emerging as costing and profit centres.

Proposed integrated IRMS cadre will find it most difficult to adjust and balance seniority groups and most likely will demotivate the rank and file of personnel to the detriment of railways efficiency. It is to be seen how the merged Indian Railways Management Service pans out with the ratio of percentage of each of the engineering technological, managerial, operational and financial streams in the proposed service cadre. This together with privatisation of trains, disinvestments of Container Corporation of India and other blue chip Railways Production Units and public sector undertakings, one cannot but surmise that all these are pointers of and prelude to the ultimate privatization (corporatization) of Indian Railways notwithstanding the fact that since 1993 following globalization of Indian economy in 1991, no private investments in the railways has come forth for the simple reasons that railways are heavy capital investments where gestation period is long for any returns as also subject to faster rusting, corrosion and depreciation. And private investors must get quick return on their investments!
 

About the Author

M Y Siddiqui

Mr M Y Siddiqui is the former Director (PR&S) at Government of India, as Spokesman of various Ministries (New Delhi). After his retirement he is now a well known columnist and critic. He writes on government plans & implementation and issues of deprived segments of India.

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