Governance Bytes: Merger of 8 railway services

Merger of 8 railway services

Approx Read Time: 5 minutes 

In News:

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the restructuring of the Railway Board, including reduction in the Board strength as well as merger of the different cadres into a central service called the Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS).
  • Though there was a view to have two services, all officers unanimously supported the need for a single service.

News Summary

Changes in the Board:

  • Currently, the board comprises eight members, each representing their service, with the chairman being the first among equals. The structure has remained unchanged since 1905.
  • The Board will now consist of five members – Chairman, along with four members responsible for infrastructure, operations and business development, rolling stock and finance. There will also be a DG (HR) under the Chairman.
  • In addition, the board will have independent members, who will be experts in fields such as finance, industry and management, much like independent directors on corporate boards.
  • The chairman will have the CEO tag attached and will be the final authority on all issues.

Background:

  • The Railway Board started in 1905, and over a period of time, it has divided the management in several silos.
  • Unification of services has been recommended by various panels for reforming railways, including the Prakash Tandon Committee (1994), Rakesh Mohan Committee (2001), Sam Pitroda Committee (2012) and Bibek Debroy Committee (2015).
  • While the government has been seeking to restructure railways for over five years now, it has been hobbled by inter-service rivalry.
  • A case in point being Train 18, where the electrical and mechanical cadres were at loggerheads, delaying the launch.

Merger of 8 railway services
Merger of 8 railway services

Modalities of the changes:

  • The modalities and unification of the services will be worked out by the Ministry of Railways in consultation with DoPT in order to ensure fairness and transparency.
  • A committee of secretaries and a panel of ministers will be entrusted with the task of implementing it, especially fixing the seniority of the 8,200 officers who have been recruited through different exams.
  • The IRMS will be in place in the next recruitment year and now the newly recruited officers will come from engineering and non-engineering disciplines as per need and posted considering their aptitude and specialization.
  • Selection for the general management positions shall be through a merit-based system unlike the present norm of seniority.

Benefits:

  • The new structure of the leaner railway board — the apex decision-making body — is intended to streamline operations and improve decision-making.
  • The unification of services will end departmentalism, promote smooth working of railways, expedite decision making, create a coherent vision for organization and promote rational decision making and set Railways on a path of a high growth trajectory.

Concerns emanating from the move:

  • There are worries about railway turning into a service of engineers, like the central public works department, where the intake is limited to engineering services unlike the current system where “generalists” handle traffic, accounts and personnel.
  • The fate of the personnel service is also unclear as a post of director general in-charge of human resources has been specifically created, reporting directly to the chairman and CEO of the railway board.
  • Further, there may be some difficulty in the initial days as electrical engineers may be asked to deal with mechanical issues or a civil engineer may find himself tackling electrical problems.
  • There could be huge dissatisfaction among different cadres unless the top officials emerge as good leaders to take care of the interest of people who have come from different services.
  • The government clarified that the reform will have no impact on the promotion of officers.
  • It also said that currently there are 10 secretary level posts in the railway board and now another 27 general manager level officers will also get the apex grade pay.
  • But there is a huge chunk of officers who are in the Joint Secretary and additional secretary level. If they are dissatisfied, then it would be a big problem to deal with.

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