Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav held a meeting with representatives of various cadres and railway unions on Wednesday (5th August 2020) on the merging of the railway services, the officials said.
The railway ministry carried out hectic deliberations and discussions on confidence building measures to bring consensus on the merger of eight railway services into one service. Sources said railway minister Piyush Goyal held discussions with representatives from different officers associations till 2 am on Thursday.
They added, though there is an effort from the railway ministry to build a consensus, the officers associations were divided on different issues including the promotion of those from non-engineering services and creation of at least two services to cater to the need. Officials said that the PMO is scheduled to take stock of all the plans and progress of all initiatives and projects by railways this week, which would include the status of merger of services.
In December 2019, the Union Cabinet approved the restructuring of the national carrier by trimming the Railway Board’s Cadres from eight to four and unifying its eight railway services into one central service.
During the meeting, the Railways informed the cadres that they were thinking of uniform promotion for all services till higher administrative grade (HAG) based on best performing service in the grade for Senior Administrative Grade (SAG).
“We are targeting the merger to be completed before November. All the posts of merged cadre will be open for all members of IRMS. Fresh recruitment to IRMS will be done from UPSC civil service exam. Posts requiring technical expertise like those in RDSO will be filled up by different process like the way it is done in ISRO/DRDO,” the official said.
Management consultancy firm McKinsey has been hired by the national transporter to work out the modalities of the merger and advise the Railway Ministry.
They also said the formula for integrated seniority was still under discussion, but Yadav said during the meeting that some element of merit will be taken into account for key posts, not just seniority. The merger services had earlier been proposed by various committees that studied ways of reforming the Indian Railways including the Prakash Tandon Committee (1994), Rakesh Mohan Committee (2001), Sam Pitroda Committee (2012) and the Bibek Debroy Committee (2015).
The merger has been protested by civil servants in Indian Railways, who are into three services – Personnel, Traffic, and Accounts. They are of the view that it placed them at a disadvantage in seniority when pitted against Indian Railways’ Engineering Services officers. According to the report, the civil servants are a few years older than their Engineering Services counterparts. This is due to the different qualities and modes of the two entrance examinations. According to sources quoted in the report, for senior posts such as Chairman Railway Board, DRM, GM, and Additional General Managers, which are open to all services on paper, selection panels may be set up to pick officials on the basis of merit. Also, age-wise criteria will be kept such that those who are older may also apply.
The Railway Minister has asked for a detailed age analysis of officials of all the eight services to appreciate the issue of the age gap. The Railway Minister was told by the officials that with young entrants growing anxious about their career prospects in Indian Railways and uncertainty over the way forward.
According to an officer, the selection panels for higher posts could include people from outside Indian Railways, if the Committee of Secretaries formed for the modalities recommends such a move and is approved by the Group of Ministers headed by Home Minister Amit Shah.