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Railways set to embrace technology & automation, reduce hiring

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Decision comes in the wake of series of recent accidents; Bibek Debroy committee had also suggested staff rationalisation for long-term viability of railways.

New Delhi: The Indian Railways has decided to increase the use of technology, especially to ensure safety, and cut down on hiring people in the face of growing criticism over train accidents blamed on human error.

With almost 14 lakh employees, the Indian Railways is the largest employer in India and eighth largest globally. As of April 2017, it has vacancy for 2.2 lakh non-gazetted posts of which 1.24 lakh posts are in areas related to safety.

In June 2015, the Bibek Debroy committee on restructuring of railways had recommended that railways should opt for staff rationalisation for long-term viability. Currently, employees’ salary accounts for more than 50 per cent of railways expenditure.

“There is a time bound process for new hiring in the railways and it happens in continuity. However, we are looking at various technologies, which can be used in order to reduce the new recruitments,” Ashwani Lohani, chairman, Railway Board, said Thursday.

One major technological intervention being considered is detection of faults in railway tracks using ultrasonic frequency and cameras. Defects in the tracks have been blamed for several recent accidents.

Another reason to go slow on new hiring is that after taking over from Suresh Prabhu, railways minister Piyush Goyal has set a deadline of 30 September to clear all pending transfers and postings.

The letter to this effect was issued on 15 September to the GMs of all the railway zones. It said transfers between zones, which have been approved but not implemented, should be completed by the end of this month and a confirmation for the same should be sent to the ministry by 5 October.

According to railway ministry officials, transfer-posting is one of the slowest processes in the railways, which hinders effective utilisation of existing resources.

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