NEW DELHI: Two railway officials paid a price for making Mallikarjun Kharge walk a small distance at Lucknow railway station on Tuesday morning as the railway minister’s carriage was not placed right in front of the VIP entrance.
The officials were upbraided and placed under suspension by the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Lucknow, (Northern Railways) for not getting the positioning of the inspection carriage right in an apparent violation of the minister’s protocol.
The minor slip-up could indeed amount to a breach of protocol, but hardly merited the harsh action, particularly as the minister’s programme was communicated at short notice. “To make way for a VIP, the entire station has to be managed and traffic regulated. It can’t be done at short notice,” said an official.
Though the suspension order was revoked in 24 hours, it could not be ascertained if the high-handed action had Kharge’s concurrence or the two officials — Swapnil Garg and AK Mal — were victims of “over enthusiastic” superiors keen to impress the minister and protect themselves.
Railways officials have expressed their anguish that the suspension order — communicated verbally through a junior employee — is part of the record.
‘Good service records’
The action has agitated the Federation of Railway Officers’ Association as both officials have good service records. Garg received the Minister of Railways (MR) award a few months ago, and Mal has also been rewarded for meritorious service.
The association slammed the decision as gross abuse of power and overstepping of authority. “Such action in a democratic country reminds us of a totalitarian state,” Shubhranshu, General Secretary of the Association, wrote to the minister. The letter seeks a clarification from Kharge: that the suspension of the officials did not have his approval.
Under service rules, an officer argued, a DRM or General Manager was not even competent to take action against Garg, who is Senior Divisional Mechanical Engineer (Sr.DME). Such action needs the approval of the Railway Board.
“This is an unprecedented step by an unauthorized person and that too through verbal /control orders amount to gross abuse of power and overstepping of authority,” the association said. Control orders in railways are issued verbally, but they are part of official record.