New Delhi: Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal Wednesday met the associations of different railway services to discuss ways of fast-tracking the merger of eight services into one common Indian Railway Managerial Service (IRMS), ThePrint has learnt.
Sources said Goyal met the officials of different services in batches in order to address their concerns regarding the merger, and ways of circumventing bureaucratic hurdles and departmentalism that are slowing down the process.
The ministry is seeking to complete the merger by November this year.
“The proposal is being met with resistance from officers, and as a result, the inner bureaucratic tussles within the ministry are impeding the process from taking off,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.
“Every officer involved, including the chairman, is being seen as a representative of their own service’s interests, and hence, the minister wanted to weigh in, and find out ways to fast-track the process.”
ThePrint reached railways ministry spokesperson D.J. Narain via WhatsApp for a comment, but there was no response till the publication of this report.
The cabinet on 24 December 2019 cleared the unification of eight existing railway services into a single IRMS in order to “end the culture of working in ‘silos’ and mark the beginning of a new and unified railway with a coherent vision for the future”.
The eight services to be merged 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.
The decision was, however, met with resistance, especially from the civil services officers, who objected to the merger with the technical services, whose members are recruited on the basis of the Indian Engineering Services (IES) exam, conducted by the UPSC.
Civil services officers from 13 railway zones and around 60 divisions had in January submitted over 250-page memorandums against the merger, calling the decision “unilateral” and one that would negatively impact the safety of train operations.
The representations were sent to the Railway Board chairman, the railways minister, DoPT secretary, cabinet secretary and even the prime minister.
Uniform promotion rule opposed
According to the sources, the railway ministry informed officers that fresh recruitment for a merged IRMS will be through the civil services exam conducted by the UPSC from next year onwards.
Officials, however, said the ministry is also considering a uniform promotion rule for all services — a proposal that is being met with some degree of resistance.
Currently, officers of the civil services in the Railways get promotions faster than those belonging to the engineering services. The government is now considering doing away with the differential promotions, and following a uniform policy, the second official said.
The ministry is further learnt to have said at the meetings with officials of different services that there would be a “merit-based selection” for all general posts of Railway Board chairperson, members, general managers etc, and also emphasised on the need to change organisational structure and work culture as well as work profile at senior levels.
Defending the ministry’s decision to merge the services, ThePrint has learnt, a senior Railway Board official told the association members that “specialisation is not very effective”. Even with specialists at the board and the Research and Design Standards Organisation, the Indian Railways is nowhere close to Korean or Japanese technology.
Further, the officials said, a “supervisory cadre” i.e. IRMS, needs to be strengthened.
Railway officials were informed that Mckinsey and Company has already been hired by the government as a consultant to work out the modalities of the merger.
Finally, the officials were told at the meetings that the now eight-member Railway Board will be reconstituted to have just four verticals — a model that will subsequently be adopted at the zonal level as well.
Concerns of officers
Officers from the civil services are also learnt to have raised concerns regarding the age difference between them and those of the engineering services.
“As per the 69th annual report 2018-19 of UPSC, maximum 42.7 per cent candidates selected in ESE examination are in 21-24 age bracket while for civil services maximum 32% are in age bracket of 24-26,” an official told the ministry, according to the sources.
The sources said Goyal has asked for a detailed age analysis to be conducted for all the eight services.
With the uncertainty regarding the merger modalities, lack of clarity on the new organisation structure, there is a growing apprehension and anxiety in the minds of the officers, especially the new recruits, the minister was informed.