Debroy Panel calls for rationalizing Railway employee strength

New Delhi: Noting that the staff cost (including pensions) is the single most significant expenditure item accounting for lion’s share in railways total expenditure, Debroy panel has strongly suggested to rationalize the number of employees working in the state transporter.

Of the total workforce of around 13.3 lakh, railways data relating to the various group ‘D’ categories indicates that as on October 1, 2014, there were around 5.7 lakh sanctioned posts and 4.7 lakh employees on rolls belonging to these categories in train operations. The numbers does not include staff of production units and “other units” of railways.

Noting that enormity of their sheer numbers makes the costs of these employees quite substantial, the panel found that large number of these categories still continue to carry out jobs and responsibilities that are now quite obsolete, for instance Bhisty, Mochi, Sarang, dhobi etc. The provision of telephone-attendant-cum-dak-khalasi (TADK) needs to be reviewed dispassionately for its discontinuation, it said.

The committee noted that the real problem is the composition of the workforce, with a shortage in the core skill operations of running trains, suggesting pruning in number of peons, khalasis and other such categories through rightsizing and outsourcing and eliminating a number of obsolete group ‘D’ categories that are no longer relevant.

At the same time, it asked to take steps to increase the output of staff at the relatively lower levels whose functions are linked to safety such as gangmen, trolley-men etc through multi-tasking, adoption of better technology, retraining and efficiency enhancing measures etc.

The seven-member panel founds that in railways substantial recruitments have been for non-core activity such as for RPF/RPSF, medical, education and group ‘D’ which has created shortage in the core skilled operations of running trains. The panel noted that this is the opportune time for restructuring as retirements in Groups C and D will increase from 54,937 in 2014-15 to 57,233 in 2015-16, 57,682 in 2016-17 and 57,284 in 2017-18, before beginning to taper off.

It was noted that the work performed by a large number of these categories can easily be outsourced at much cheaper rates and the responsibilities of many of these categories can be combined through multi-tasking. The panel noted that despite significant technological improvements and automation, there has not been commensurate rationalization of staff.

It was found that spending on staff was unmanageably high and growing at an alarming rate as the staff costs constituted 48% of ordinary working expenses and 34% of gross traffic receipts in 2013-14. Pension outgo and staff costs put together were 51.3% of gross traffic receipts. The total expenditure for 2013-14 was Rs 1,31,465 crore, while the total receipts were at Rs 1,43,214 crore.

The panel has suggested withdrawal from non-core activities such as managing RPF, running schools and medical services to cut the expenditure. Of the total workforce, there are 57,312 Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Railway Protection Special Force (RPSF) personnel within groups ‘C’ and ‘D’.

The railways, which run a medical service with an infrastructure of 125 hospitals, 586 health units and 14,000 beds, employ 2,597 medical officers and 54,000 paramedical staff. It also runs one degree college and 168 railway schools.

For officers, the panel suggested to merge the existing eight organized Group ‘A’ services into two services i.e. the Indian Railway Technical Service (IRTechS) comprising the existing five technical services and the Indian Railway Logistics Service (IRLogS), comprising the three non-technical services.