Protests against cadre merger: Railway traffic officers suggest division into two streams

Avishek G Dastidar
Divide officers into two streams instead of one: Railway civil servants

The Board Members, through a similar process, should be selected from the pool of GMs, it suggested.

Railway civil servants, who have been protesting against the government’s plan to merge cadre, have suggested the government to change the criteria of selection for high-level posts and divide railway officers into two streams instead of one.

In a formal representation to the Railway Minister, the PMO, the Cabinet Secretary and the Department of Personnel and Training, the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) Officers Association said the key challenges facing Railways that result in poor financial performance — declining market share, high cost of transportation, network capacity constraints, absence of coordinated investment planning — do not get addressed if all officers are merged into an Indian Railway Management Service as per government decision.

The Traffic Service officers are responsible for core operations of Railways. They are responsible for running the trains and planning the transportation solutions and business development. As a result, they are in charge of earning every penny that Railways earns through passenger and freight segments.

The body has said that due to early age entry of officers into the Engineering services, those in the civil services — Traffic, Personnel and Accounts — “would be deprived of a fair and equitable opportunity to man posts at the apex decision-making levels...”

It has suggested creation of two services — one by amalgamating all engineering services and another by merging the three civil services of Traffic, Accounts and Personnel.

It has argued that while the technical wing will look after the “supply side” by ensuring network infrastructure, rolling stock, technical support in signalling, tracks etc; the “demand” side will be taken care of by specialised civil servants by “understanding the users of the different modes of transport where the element of public policy plays a crucial role”.

In its petition, the association has suggested that the posts of zonal General Managers, Divisional Railway Managers and Railway Board Members should be filled through a revised selection process and not just through seniority among various services.

For General Manager posts, the association suggested that a selection panel comprising offices outside Railways like Cabinet Secretary, DoPT Secretary and even an outside expert, along with the CEO of Railways, should be formed. The eligible officer must be an Additional-Secretary rank and should have worked as DRM.

For DRM posts, it suggested that the eligibility should be akin to those required for Director in premier PSUs. And in addition, the officer should have worked in a division for at least six years.

The Board Members, through a similar process, should be selected from the pool of General Managers, it suggested. The officers’ association said in its petition that a sizeable number of traffic officers spend 24X7 in producing the “railway transportation output”. “Excluding them from the top posts by virtue of age of entry and changing the service conditions suddenly and with retrospective effect will severely affect the morale of these officers,” it said.