Railways threaten action against officials ‘critical’ of Govt policy

Railway servants have been warned against criticism of the government in messages/chats on various social media, including their closed user groups. They would else have to face disciplinary action.

Stung by criticism of the government’s policies by civil servants, the railways ministry has struck back by threatening disciplinary action against those found guilty.

While railways minister Suresh Prabhu has actively been promoting the use of social media to further the government’s agenda, the ministry seems to have realised that such platforms are double-edged weapons that could be – and were – being used to slam government policies.

“The cavalier and freewheeling manner of the criticism of government policies by the rail bureaucracy is unacceptable. Therefore, the need to reiterate the Service Conduct Rules of 1966, which prohibit officials from making any adverse criticism of the current or recent policy or action of the central or state government,” a senior ministry official said.

“It has come to notice that railway servants are indulging in messages/chats on various social media, including their closed user groups (CUG), which tantamount to criticism of the government. Under Rule 9 of the Railway Service Conduct Rules of 1966, this is not permitted. Any violation of the above will render the employees liable for disciplinary action,” the railways said in its circular of August 30.

“It is a fact that officials have increasingly been articulating opinions, mainly in closed groups on social media platforms. But the government clearly seems to be overreacting. Individual lives cannot be controlled in such as a manner,” a senior ministry official said.

Federation of Railway Officers Association (FROA) general secretary RN Singh is not alarmed by what he describes as a “routine circular”.

“The service conduct rules have merely been reiterated, as past governments have also done. This does not mean that merit-based criticism of the government policies cannot be done by associations or federations,” he said.

“Placing curbs on mindless criticism of government policies is fine. Several employees have developed the habit of forwarding or pressing ‘likes’ of adverse comments against the government. While this cannot be permitted, meaningful criticism of the government’s policies has to remain,” said Shiva Gopal Mishra of the All India Railway Men Federation (AIRF).