नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Railways may be introducing hundreds of new trains every year but the number of employees required to handle the operations has been declining with 2.25 lakh posts currently lying vacant.
At the top level, the key post of Member (Electrical) in Railway Board is vacant as also the posts of four General Managers (GMs) and several Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs), hindering smooth decision-making.
“The total number of vacant posts in various categories on zonal railways, as on April 1, 2014 is 2,25,863,” minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha had recently told Parliament.
The minister, however, argued that efficiency of train operations had shown continuous improvement over the years and there was no compromise on security matters.
But railway employees are not amused with the state of affairs in the transporter.
The pressure is mounting on better quality services after the BJP government raised fares, but the huge backlog in recruitment and inter-departmental fighting at the top is obstructing any betterment in passenger amenities.
Most of the vacancies are in safety-related posts of loco running staff, driver, station master, guard, signal inspector and maintenance staff.
While the key posts are lying vacant due to pressure from departmental lobbies, the latest policy on posting of DRMs is being questioned for giving absolute power to the railway board chairman.
Officers belonging to eight railway services are selected for DRM on the basis of a fixed quota. Out of 68 posts of DRMs, 16 each go to traffic, mechanical and engineering services while nine go to electrical and four to signals.
While the quota itself was strongly opposed by electrical and signals departments whose strength and role has increased substantially in train operations over the years, the new policy states, “The decision of railway board chairman in readjustment of slots among different services is final.”
The policy also hides many facts. It says that posting of DRMs does not confer any benefits. But holding DRM post is a criterion for an official to be promoted as GM.
The delay in filling posts has raised serious questions as in past, the appointment of DRMs and GMs were deliberately delayed to scuttle a particular candidate’s chances of becoming GM, a board member or railway board chairman.
After the cash-for-promotion scam, officials had demanded that the entire appointment process be recast to ensure there was no manipulation or victimization of those vying for top posts by doing away with the discretionary powers.
But it seems not many lessons have been learnt from the ‘railgate’ scandal and lobbying and one-upmanship for postings continues unhindered.
For other junior posts, railways, however, maintains that an aggressive recruitment drive is underway to fill up vacant posts. But the recruitment process is mired in controversy after paper leak and other irregularities were noticed.