New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is set to take stock of the railway services merger process, in light of the discord among officers, ThePrint has learnt.
According to sources, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal is expected to brief the PMO at 11.30 am Saturday on the progress of the merger of eight railway services into a unified Indian Railway Managerial Service (IRMS) — a process the ministry is seeking to complete by November 2020.
The meeting with the PMO comes just two days after Goyal met associations of different services, and sought to fast-track the process, which has caused discord in the railway ranks.
“Certain decisions like recruitment of IRMS through Civil Services Exam of the UPSC, promotion on merit and not just seniority, along with concerns of the services will be discussed with the PMO,” said an official, who did not want to be named.
In addition, the PMO will also review the fast-tracking of the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, making dedicated freight corridors operational at the earliest, exploring ways of overcoming the revenue shortfall because of Covid-19 and ways to raise additional revenues to keep railways afloat.
It will also evaluate the progress of the station redevelopment project, examine the progress of private investment in different work, including private trains, as well as ways to fast-track linking Kashmir, and take stock of the progress on the Bilaspur-Leh line.
As reported by ThePrint, the PMO would also review the multi-crore signalling project of RailTel, for which the costs have become a bone of contention between the railway ministry and RailTel.
The contentious IRMS merger
ThePrint had Thursday reported that the railway ministry had during its meeting with officers Wednesday informed them of certain key decisions like fresh recruitment for a merged IRMS through the civil services exam conducted by the UPSC from next year onwards, the possibility of a uniform promotion rule for all services, a “merit-based selection” for all general posts of Railway Board chairperson, members, general managers etc, and reorganisation of the Railway Board into four verticals.
The ministry also informed the officers that all posts of the merged cadre will be open for all members of the IRMS, and that certain posts requiring technical expertise like those in Research and Design Standards Organisation (RDSO) will be recruited through ISRO-DRDO in a separate recruitment process.
In an interview to ThePrint in February this year, Railway Board Chairman V.K. Yadav had talked about boosting the technical expertise of RDSO.
“We have a very clear vision — the entire managerial service will look after the functioning of railways in its entirety, the Group B officers, who are all engineers and graduates themselves, will look after the day-to-day functioning on technical aspects and a team of experts and researchers who don’t belong to the railways service at RDSO (Research Development and Standards Organisation) will be concerned with only the research part,” he had said.
Officers voice concerns
Officers from the civil services, for their part, had raised concerns in Wednesday’s meeting regarding the age difference between them and those of the engineering services, the threat to the career progression of civil services officers if the cadres are merged and promotions made uniform across the board.
While the average age bracket for those clearing the engineering examination is 21-24, that for civil services is 24-26. Merging the cadre, and standardising promotions would negatively impact the career progression of officers belonging to the civil services since they will have fewer years in service.
Goyal has asked for a detailed age analysis to be conducted for all the eight services.
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.
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