NEW DELHI: Civil Services officers from 13 railway zones and around 60 divisions have submitted written memorandums running into more than 250 pages against the merger of railway services, alleging the decision was “unilateral” and will negatively impact the safety of trains operations.
Big brown envelopes containing representations against the merger of eight services into the Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) have been delivered to the desks of the railway board chairman, the railway minister, DoPT secretary, cabinet secretary and even the prime minister on Wednesday and Thursday.
The railways in a press release announcing the merger had stated that the reform was undertaken with “overwhelming support and consensus of railway officers, at a two-day conference ‘Parivartan Sangoshthi’ held on December 7 and 8, 2019.”
However, the representations alleged that in the ‘Parivartan Sanghoshti’, 12 groups were formed, each headed by general managers (GMs) and the decision was taken “to suit the Engineering Service officers over their civil service counterparts”.
The memorandums stated that there are around 2,500 civil services officers who will be affected by the merger. “All general managers belonged to engineering services. The group members were taken from the respective zones of the GMs concerned. Only the GMs were allowed to speak. The dissenting views of the group members were not allowed by the respective GMs who happen to be controlling officers of the members. In reality, the personal views of the general managers were regarded as the views of the group,” alleged a representation from the Ambala Division of the Northern Railway and the sentiment echoed in all the memorandums.
“If disagreements and differences of opinion was not allowed to be expressed, how could the consultation process be considered as democratic, as desired by the railway minister,” it stated. All the representations also highlighted how the move will compromise safety in train operations, stating that to avoid asset failures, expert specialization of that asset is essential.
“Human failure occur because of safety breach due to carelessness, lack of skill or training and lack of knowledge or awareness. To tackle all these issues a clear command and control structure with domain knowledge and clear functional affiliations is paramount… which will be impossible if various services are merged,” the memorandums stated.
The officers in their memorandums also referred to the Bibek Debroy Committee report to drive home their point of having two services — administrative/managerial and other technical — instead of one for the national transporter.
They also spoke out against the railway ministry’s claims that the merger will end departmentalism, claiming that the “so-called departmentalism” is virtually absent in the field at divisional and zonal levels.
“At a time when organizational restructuring is planned, non-representation of civil servants at GM’s rank and at ‘Parivartan Sangoshthi’s’ team leaders creates a sense of mistrust and disillusionment… the present form in which merger/unification is proposed, not only departmentalism will grow but organizational focus and its very purpose will be defeated,” another memorandum stated.
Indra Ghosh, a former general manager in East Coast Railway, who was also an executive director, safety, for five years, said the move to merge cadres was “disastrous”. “People will become jack of all trades. While the present engineering services officers are not speaking up because they stand to benefit from the merger, former officers of the cadre will say how dangerous the move is.
“Also, maximum departmentalism exists in the railway board and not in the zones and divisions. All senior posts, the GM’s panel are based on birth certificate. They are promoted on age profile and not on competence,” Ghosh alleged. He also claimed that once the merger pans out, all senior-level posts will be occupied by electrical engineers who were inducted into railways in large numbers in the last two years.
Out of the 27 GMs presently in service, only three are from the civil services. So far, representations have come from civil service officers in Central Railways, North Eastern Railway, Eastern Railway, South Eastern Railway, South Central Railway, Southern Railway, Western Railway, South Western Railway, West Central Railway, North Central Railway, South East Central Railway, East Coast Railway, East Central Railway and from their divisional headquarters.
In other railway zones like Northern Railway, Northeast Frontier Railway, North Western Railway, various representations against the merger have come from their divisions. A senior official told PTI, “The Indian Railway Promotee Officers’ Federation has already given a strong support to the merger exercise. The federation consists of 3,700 officers out of 8,400 in the Group A service of the Indian Railway.”
“The ministry has assured the officers who come through the Civil Services Exams that their interests will be protected,” he said. According to sources, officers have been asked to send in their suggestions through email and around 900 suggestions have been received so far while memorandums of this nature will have no effect on the decision-making process.
“The suggestions received on email will be considered as part of the larger consultation process before finalising the modalities. A group of secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary will take care of interests of everyone,” a source said.