In major revamp, govt clears merger of 8 railway services Intended To End Turf Battles, Streamline Ops

In a major revamp of Indian Railways, the government on Tuesday decided to merge eight different services and create the Indian Railways Management Services, while restructuring the railway board to create a structure similar to a company board, as part of a plan to put the state transporter back on track.

The new structure of the leaner railway board—the apex decision-making body—is intended to streamline operations and improve decision-making, while the move to merge the eight services is aimed at ending turf war among them. Currently, the board has eight members, each representing their service, with the chairman being the first among equals. The structure has remained unchanged since 1905.

Under the new system, the chairman will have the CEO tag attached and be the final authority on all issues. In addition, there will be four members, handling finance, operations & business development, infrastructure, and rolling stock portfolios. There will also be a DG in charge of human resource who will report to the chairman and CEO.

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.

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.

Unification of services has been recommended by various committees for reforming railways.

Rejig creates unease among senior officers

Several railway officers are nervous about their seniority after the government decided to combine eight services into the Indian Railway Management Services. However, a section of officers, particularly young ones, seemed to be in sync with the Centre’s stand that changes will help the railways as fewer officers will be involved in decision-making. Clarity will emerge in a few months once a secretaries’ panel and a panel of ministers firm up the policy. P 8

‘Unification will help in smooth working of rlys’

Several panels, including the Prakash Tandon committee (1994), Rakesh Mohan committee (2001), Sam Pitroda committee (2012), and Bibek Debroy committee (2015), have recommended the unification of services to reform railways. “The Modi government has taken the bold decision to meet next-level challenges and deal with various existing difficulties...Though there was a view to have two services, all officers unanimously supported the need for a single service... The unification of services will end ‘departmentalism’, promote smooth working of railways, expedite decision-making, create a coherent vision for organisation and promote rational decision-making,” railway minister Piyush Goyal told reporters after the Union Cabinet cleared the plan. The minister also clarified that the chairman and CEO will be from the railway service.

With the decision now in place, 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. IRMS will be in place in the next recruitment year, an official statement said.

Sources said the exercise to restructure the railway board and merge the services started after Modi took a review meeting of the transport infrastructure sector in October. On November 11, TOI had reported that PM had ticked off the railway bureaucracy for resisting reforms and how there would be hardly any improvement on the ground even if the board chairman would commit to something.

Government said now newly recruited officers will come from engineering and non-engineering disciplines as per the need. Selection for the general management positions shall be through a merit-based system.

With no clarity yet, rejig leaves officials nervous

Railway officers began pouring over rules, with many of them nervous about their seniority, after the government decided to combine eight services into the Indian Railway Management Services. A section of officers, particularly the young ones, seemed to be in sync with the government’s stand that the changes will help railways as then fewer officers will be involved in the decision-making process. While clarity will only emerge in the next few months once a committee of secretaries and a panel of ministers firms up the policy. TNN

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