The civil servants of Railways have been on a protest against the government’s recent decision to merge all the eight technical and non-technical services into one Indian Railway Management Service
In 2015, as an official response to the Bibek Debroy committee report on administrative reform, railway unions and the officers’ federation had jointly supported the creation of a single unified service, documents show.
The five federations representing 13 lakh employees in a joint statement on June 26, 2015, categorised their unanimous response to the report’s recommendations between “Positive Recommendations” and “Outrightly Rejectable Recommendations”, documents reviewed by The Indian Express show.
Under the subhead of “Positive Recommendations”, it wrote “A Single Group ‘A’ Railway Service (One of the option given in para 4.30 and 4.31/Chapter 4)”.
The civil servants of Railways have been on a protest against the government’s recent decision to merge all the eight technical and non-technical services into one Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) with implications that include merger of the existing serving officers into a common seniority list and opening up all posts to all departments. The unions have also joined them in the protest. The government cited the Debroy committee report as one of the justifications for the move.
The five federations that signed the document include the two railway unions — All Indian Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF), National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR), the Group A officers’ association called the Federation of Railway Officers’ Association (FROA), the RPF Association and the Promotee Officers’ Association.
Asked why they supported the move then and are opposing it now, Shiv Gopal Mishra, secretary general of the AIRF, said that the union had rejected the Debroy committee recommendations in totality. “We agreed that there needs to be professionalism and expertise in Railways, but I remember rejecting the report’s recommendations in totality. We had a formal response from our union submitted in writing,” he said.
The FROA has been conspicuously silent. Members said it is an “officers’ association” but not a “service association”.
“The response you are talking about was given without discussing with the individual service associations because that is not our mandate. FROA is a federation of zonal officers’ associations. It does not represent individual services or their associations,” said an office-bearer of the FROA.
While Debroy Committee recommended not one but two services — technical and logistics —, the acceptance of the five federations to formation of a single service raises questions.
Paragraphs 4.30 and 4.31 of the Debroy Committee report say: “The Committee feels that as we go from the present eight services to one Railway service option, as has been strongly suggested by the representative body of Group ‘A’ officers, there is bound to be a dramatic decrease in the degree of specialization. This was also one of the major criticisms of the Gupta-Narain Committee against the one Railway service option.”
In terms of preserving competency in railways post merger, the committee notes in these paragraphs: “It is obvious that the ‘one Railway service’ option would require a very diverse set of skills and competencies to be available in a directly recruited candidate… Attaining proficiency in such diverse areas for existing officers may also not be feasible. Thus going from the present system to the one service option would appear to be rather difficult,” it says.
After citing the National Transport Development Policy Committee report, the paragraphs make a case for two services instead of one, merged “on a rational basis, in terms of workable parameters” and based on “logical competency groupings”. It says that the competency groupings of engineers and civil servants are different.
The paragraph also notes that FROA had suggested a formula for making a common seniority of merged cadres. “We believe one service option can work only if all recruitment takes place from amongst persons with homogeneous qualifications, which is not the case at present when recruitment is through two different examinations,” it says.