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Railways looking to ensure ‘multi-tasking’ at junior levels as part of service merger plan

Zonal railways have given suggestions on how to merge services at the lower levels. Merger of 8 existing rail services was approved by Union Cabinet last December.

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New Delhi: Nearly six months after the Union Cabinet gave its nod to the merger of eight railway services, the ministry is now working on a proposal to ensure “multi-tasking of staff” at junior levels.

The Ministry of Railways has received recommendations from zonal railways on how to merge services at the lower levels.

Some of the recommendations include ensuring preparation of salary and its disbursal by the same department, handling of ticket-checking, reservation and enquiry posts by the same department, and deployment of Railway Protection Force constables for checking tickets.

“The idea is to ensure multi-tasking, cutting down on redundant posts, and making the organisation leaner,” said a senior official, who didn’t want to be named.

The ministry’s bid to rationalise services at the lower levels comes after the Narendra Modi government approved a proposal to merge eight existing rail services into a single Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS) in December last year.

The ministry constituted an eight-member committee in this regard last month “to deliberate on the various issues relating to multi-tasking of staff in Railways and to submit its recommendations”, according to an order dated 8 May. 

The terms of reference of the committee were — identification of cadres of various posts, which can be considered for multi-tasking, scope and details regarding training to be imparted to the staff identified for multi-tasking, and fixation of seniority and pay for the merged cadre, among others.

Also read: Should Indian Railways be privatised to prevent it from going the Air India way?

Suggestions from zonal railways

The recommendations from the zonal railways came after the Railway Board earlier this year wrote to general managers for “a list of activities where the existing practice is to deploy staff from multiple departments, which could be handled by a single person with training and multi-skilling”.

The ministry also suggested the job profiles of electricians, masons, telecom maintainers, ticket examiners and RPF constables can be merged after proper training. 

Responding to the ministry’s request for recommendations, 12 railway zones prepared a proposal of recommendations.

According to the proposal, the categories of Guard and Loco Pilot will be merged. “Ticket printing should be undertaken on the line of airlines, the passenger should be permitted to show their tickets on mobiles or can have printed on a self-ticket printing machine on the line of self-printing boarding pass at airports.” 

In the context of mergers in accounting, it said, “Disbursement of salary should be streamlined along the lines of pension payments, which are managed by banks and except supervisory staff of the Personnel and Accounts department, all other categories should be extinguished.”

‘Merging technical jobs would do more harm than good’

Some railway officers ThePrint spoke to, however, said the recommendations suggested by the zonal railways ignore specialisation, and are knee-jerk. 

“The Railway Protection Force is trained in security… How can you make them check tickets?” said an officer of the Indian Railway Traffic Service.

Another officer said merging technical jobs would do more harm than good. “While I agree that certain unskilled categories can be merged, merging certain technical skilled trades could weaken the expertise… Merger can be done where trades or jobs are broadly related but a wholesale merger could do more harm than good.”

However, some officers also agreed that since the proposal to merge the railway services met with so much resentment, merging the services of the junior staff would be a way to start. 

Also read: Indian Railways deems 2019 safest year in its history, records zero passenger deaths


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