New Delhi: Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal allegedly pulled up officers last week for protesting against the Modi government’s decision to merge eight railway services into a single Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS).
At a meeting held days after the Union Cabinet approved the merger in December, Goyal is said to have criticised the social media campaign against it and told railways officers that “he can run the railways without the officers”.
The railways ministry confirmed that such a meeting with a group of railways officers was held, but the spokesperson said the claim that the minister was rude to officials was “absolutely incorrect,” and that the meeting was held in a “cordial atmosphere.”
“This is a period of uncertainty, and some officers could be saying these things as a result of the confusion,” the spokesperson said. “The ministry is committed to hearing the officers out and ensure their best interest.”
Two senior railways officers told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity that the minister was extremely infuriated at the developments that followed the government’s decision.
“He told the officers that this campaign on social media and sending postcards to the PMO are being watched and are not appreciated,” one of the senior officers said.
ThePrint had reported that the merger of eight services, technical and non-technical, had triggered widespread resentment among railway officers. Several officers subsequently began a campaign where the PM was sent thousands of postcards with messages such as #NoToIRMS, #SaveIndianRailways, etc.
Several others gave up the protection of anonymity and took to social media to express shock and disappointment.
“After the meeting, we don’t have much hope that anything will be done…” the aforementioned officer said. “He (Goyal) also said he can run the railways without the officers.”
The eight services affected by the merger, cleared by the Cabinet on 24 December, include the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS), Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS), and Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS), which constitute the transporter’s civil services. The remaining five are technical or engineering services.
Officers of the IRTS, IRAS and IRPS are selected through the civil services exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and have objected to the merger with the technical services, whose members are recruited on the basis of the Indian Engineering Services (IES) exam, which is organised by the UPSC as well.
“First we were not consulted when such a major decision was taken regarding our service and careers, and now, instead of building the trust of disgruntled officers, the government is adopting such an aggressive approach,” the second railway officer privy to the meeting said.
‘Meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere’
Responding to queries sent by ThePrint, the spokesperson said, Goyal met a group of railways officers “to discuss the recently announced reorganisation and restructuring in Indian Railways which included unification of organised services into single service namely Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS)”.
“The meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere. Officers were given the opportunity to put forth their view point to the minister. The Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal gave a patient hearing to all the issues and concerns of the officers and assured that all their concerns will be appropriately and adequately addressed,” the spokesperson added.
“He categorically stated that the interest of all officers will be protected and no one will be put to any disadvantage following unification of the services. The exercise will be conducted with full consultation of stakeholders and view point of all concerned officers will be suitably accommodated.”
According to the spokesperson, Goyal also asked the officers to submit their suggestions at an “appropriate forum”.
“An email account has already been created and officers have been asked to mail their suggestions,” he said. “The meeting helped in a big way in allaying fears and concerns of officers.”
As reported by ThePrint, the spokesperson said that “Chairman, Railway Board has also interacted with more than 4,000 officers through video conferencing across the nation and assured the officers that their interests will not be compromised and while deciding the modalities it will be ensured that no one is put at a disadvantage”.
“The Government will soon constitute the alternative mechanism through which all issues will be resolved with due diligence,” he said.
Not just minister, PM ‘peeved with railway officers too’
It is not just Goyal who is believed to be disappointed with the reluctance of railway officers vis-a-vis reforms. In November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while reviewing the progress of various sectors, is learnt to have expressed his unhappiness over the slow pace of reforms in the railways, in particular, said a senior government official.
While speaking to senior government officers, the PM said his time is wasted in interactions with railways officers since none of the decisions is actually implemented, the official added. The Railway Board chairman, the PM is learnt to have said, happily committed to everything but nothing would move on the ground.
PM Modi is said to be especially upset with railways officers over the slow progress of key projects such as station development and high-speed trains, officers said.
As early as 2015, former principal secretary to the PM, Nripendra Misra, wrote a note to the railways ministry, highlighting the “less than satisfactory performance” in certain areas.