The Federation of Railway Officers’ Associations (FROA), the apex body of more than 10,000 railway officers, has sought Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth’s intervention to enlarge the scope of the work of the Centre’s Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) to cover all matters relating to senior railway officers’ postings, promotions and empanelment for promotions.
In a letter to Seth, Secretary-General of the FROA, Subhranshu said recent developments involving the arrest of a Member of the Railway Board and some middlemen might have caught the Government by surprise but not most Railway officers who have some knowledge of what goes on in the corridors of Rail Bhavan in the name of postings and promotions. The Railway Ministry would not only flout rules regarding postings as laid down by the DoPT, but would often bend and distort the rules “beyond recognition”.
“DoPT should be given a consolidated seniority list of SAG (Senior Administrative Grade) officers and left to carry out its job impartially,” the letter observes. “Senior Railway officials handling these issues should be put under the DoPT and should report to it. The postings of senior officers of the Railways must follow certain norms as laid down by DoPT”.
The letter draws attention to various irregularities. It is pointed out that the position of General Managers would often be kept vacant (“in some cases for over six months”) till a “suitable” person is identified. One Chairman of the Railway Board did not fill the position of a Member during his entire tenure; instead, he kept the portfolio to himself. Names for filling up vacancies at the top level would often be sent to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet at the eleventh hour and, sometimes, long after the vacancies had arisen.
It is complained that there is a complete lack of transparency in the preparation panels right from the level of DRM (Divisional Railway Manager) to HAG (Higher Administrative Grade) and SAG (Senior Administrative Grade) and General Manager levels officers. This is in sharp contrast to the practice followed by DoPT. “There is such a veil of secrecy in the entire exercise that senior officers would often be reduced to begging favours of junior officers in the Railway Board only to know if their names are in the panel or not,” the letter states.
Some General Managers, particularly those working in production units, would rarely be considered for the position of Members on the Board as they were considered “not fit for open line” which meant they had not served the zonal railways and, therefore, lacked the experience of handling rail movement. In most cases, officers from the mechanical stream were victims of such a policy. But, according to the FROA letter, there are instances in record where officers having no “open line” experience have been considered for higher position. The problem becomes worse when an “open line” officer is posted in a “non-open line” job only to deny him promotion to a higher position.
Referring to rank favouritism in regard to postings, it is pointed out that a few select officers would always be favoured with prized postings, i.e. postings in metros, and some of these officers have been found to be working in the same positions for up to 25 years at a stretch. Sometimes vigilance cases were slapped against an efficient person only to deny him a promotion in preference to the chosen one.