Race for CRB post under the Scanner

Cabinet Secretary holds meeting with outgoing Chairman, second-time

In the backdrop of the CBI probe into malpractices in the transfer and posting of high-ups in the Railway Board, the race for the coveted post of chairman has come under the scanner of the Union government.  The Cabinet Secretary is said to have summoned the outgoing Chairman Vinay Mittal on Friday for a discussion. The meeting gained significance as it was held in the wake of the Cabinet Secretary’s directive to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) for taking action on a memorandum from the Federation of Railway Officers’ Association president R.K. Bhatnagar regarding malpractices in the transfer and posting of officers.

All India Railwaymen’s Federation president Shiva Gopal Mishra has called for transparency in the posting and transfer of top officers after the CBI arrested the then Member Staff Mahesh Kumar in the alleged bribe scam, eyeing the plum post of Member Electrical.

The Officers’ Association lodged the protest apparently after coming to know of the alleged attempt to scuttle the prospects of North Frontier Zonal Railway General Manager R.S.Virdi, who is among the three names referred to the Prime Minister for consideration to fill the post that will fall vacant on June 30.  The other two names reportedly referred to are Northern Railway General Manager V.K. Gupta and South Western Railway General Manager A.K. Mittal. The other person in the race is Member Electrical Kul Bhushan.

The resentment among officers was due to the fact that a 10-year old case which was closed long back in which the CBI had already enquired and found baseless, was being sought to be reopened.  The CBI had enquired into the allegation against the then director coaching D.C. Sharma in the purchase of perfumes for air-conditioned coaches and gave him a clean bill.

A move now has been initiated to order a vigilance probe against Mr.Sharma’s then boss Mr. Virdi. A letter is said to have been written to Adviser, Vigilance Department, to look into the case after his name has been referred to the PM for consideration for the top post.

It was not clear if the approval of Railway Minister C.P. Joshi had been sought in the matter. Officers smell a rat behind the motive to dig out an old case which had been settled by the CBI and that too when Mr. Virdi had obtained two promotions and was now aspiring for the top post.

The federation has complained to the Cabinet Secretary, a copy of which has been sent to the PMO, that the vigilance wing was being misused as a tool of retribution to deny rights to upright officers and dole out favours to cronies.

Railway officials pointed out how N.C. inha had been denied the promotion, approved by the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), to the post of additional member. When it was delayed by a few days, a vigilance inquiry was ordered against him.

This was when Dinesh Trivedi happened to be the Railway Minister and Mr. Mittal chairman of the board. The vigilance cleared his name and the ACC again granted Mr. Sinha promotion in December.

This time the case was referred to the Law Ministry for clarification, which sources maintained was not needed in the first place. And when the Law Ministry cleared his proposal in May, it was too late for Mr. Sinha. His residual tenure stood reduced to less than two years and that denied him promotion to the rank of General Manager.

This happened during the tenure of Pawan Kumar Bansal. The post of Member Traffic had been kept vacant for a particular officer, it was stated though Mr. Sinha qualified for the same.