New Delhi: The much-awaited merger of railway officers as part of the Narendra Modi government’s decision to merge the eight rail services into a single Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS) could be partial in nature, ThePrint has learnt.
According to sources in the government, while the cabinet decision was to merge eight existing services of the Railways, it has now been decided that the existing officers would continue to work in their departments, with each department having its own career progression and promotions based on seniority, while the newly hired officers could be recruited into a common IRMS.
At the same time, certain posts, which would be the highest administrative posts in the Railways, could be demarcated as ex cadre posts, for which a selection panel could be constituted.
The selection panel would, irrespective of the service and seniority of the officers who apply for these top posts such as that of general managers, pick suitable candidates for these posts.
There is no clarity over the composition of this panel yet.
‘Matter is being deliberated upon’
Asked about the new plan, railway ministry spokesperson D.J. Narain told ThePrint the matter is being deliberated upon.
“Many aspects of management are still being worked out and the best feasible decision in the interest of Indian Railways would be taken,” he added.
In December 2019, the cabinet had decided to set up an IRMS, in a bid to end “departmentalism” and the “culture of silos” in the Railways. At the same time, the reconstitution of the Railway Board was announced to give it a more market-oriented approach — a decision that was implemented in September this year.
However, the decision to merge the services, which is expected to be implemented by November this year, had led to widespread concerns among the railway bureaucracy — to assuage which, the government has held several rounds of consultations with officers.
“The new officers would probably be sent for the same training, and they will not belong to any of these eight specialised services,” said a railway official, who did not wish to be named.
“This, it is believed, would over the years end the culture of silos in the railways, and new officers will have a broader understanding and vision for the railways as a whole,” the official added.
‘Could affect specialisation’
While the existing officers could all be called “IRMS” officers, they would continue to work in their own departments, thereby placating the concerns of officers that the merger could affect their career progression.
The decision to merge the eight services was met with resistance by the civil services among the railway services — Traffic, Personnel and Accounts — who argued that since they enter government service through a tougher and more competitive civil service exam at a later age, it is unfair to merge them with engineering services, who crack a comparatively easier exam at an earlier age.
Commenting on the government’s new plan, a traffic service officer said: “If there is going to be a common recruitment process in future, there would not be any heartburn with regard to service conditions.”
But, he added, “it could affect specialisation in a diverse organisation like the Railways”.