Suresh Prabhu wants CRB brought on par with Cabinet Secretary rank; seeks Higher Pay for CRB, GMs

Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister of Railways

New Delhi: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has written to chairman of the pay commission, seeking higher payscale for the posts of Chairman of the Railway Board and General Managers (GM) of zonal railways. In the letter, Prabhu has strongly endorsed an old demand from Railways to make the GM’s post equal to that of a state’s chief secretary in pay and to give the Railway Board Chairman the same payscale as that of the Chief of Army Staff, Cabinet Secretary and a few topmost officers in the Indian bureaucracy. “Every ministry gives representations to the pay commission. I have forwarded the one related to GMs and Chairman of Railway Board,” Prabhu told.

The demand is not new. In fact, the Railway Board had sent the same demand about six months ago. What is new is the endorsement from the minister, and the bureaucracy is hoping it will strengthen their case.

Earlier, payscales of GMs of zonal railways were higher than top bureaucrats in states like chief secretary, DGP, and chief conservator of forests. But over the years, while other services raised their payscales, that of the GMs, who are ex-officio additional secretaries to the government, remained unchanged. “A railway GM’s jurisdiction spreads across multiple states.

There are regular coordination issues in which he has to speak to multiple chief secretaries and DGPs. So a parity is needed. It existed earlier,” said a Railway Board member who did not wish to be named.

The case for the Chairman of the Railway Board is believed to be stronger. During the first pay commission, the Commissioner of Railways enjoyed the highest payscale among bureaucrats. It was only after the third pay commission that this changed.

Now, although the Railway Board Chairman is an ex-officio principal secretary to the government, his payscale is equal to that of any other departmental secretary and the other six members of the Railway Board who have the rank of ex-officio secretary to the Government of India. If the demand to raise the payscale is accepted, the top post will get a Rs 10,000 raise in pay band and the post will reflect the stature of being a top bureaucratic position.

Besides the CRB, the Railway Board as the apex body of the national transporter currently includes eight members including the Finance Commission, the Director General, Railway Health Services, and DG, Railway Protection Force.

If Prabhu’s proposal is accepted by the commission headed by justice Ashok Kumar Mathur, the chairman of the Railway Board (CRB) will get the rank of the chief of armythe  staff and counterparts in the navy and air force, who enjoy near-parity with the Cabinet secretary, the country’s senior-most civil servant and invariably from the IAS.

Sources said Prabhu also proposed that railway zonal general managers — some 25 of them — could be elevated to the rank of chief secretaries of the states, who have the same rank as secretaries to the Union government.

Prabhu’s move, unprecedented by a railway minister, would give fresh ammunition to other cadres — principally the Indian Police Service and Indian Revenue Service — in their pitch for rewards commensurate with the members of the IAS. It could potentially lead to an increase in the Centre’s salary bill, in addition to what the commission’s recommendations would have caused otherwise.

The IPS and IRS associations have approached successive Pay Commissions with similar demands in the past, but with limited or no success, partly because these demands have never got endorsed by the political executive. The differential Grade Pays for IAS and non-IAS officers brought in by the 6th Pay Commission only widened the disparity.

Although sources said that the status change proposed for scores of top railway officials won’t result in a significant increase in their salary packages, the fact remains that pay and allowances are closely linked to rank.

Analysts said the Pay Commission would find it hard to give secretary-to-GoI status to some 35 officers with the railways without accepting similar demands from IPS and IRS associations. Either the commission would be liberal to the pleas from all Group A services or deny them all, they said.

The IPS cadre, manned by people immediately following those selected for IAS and IFS in the UPSC rank list, has less than 10 posts equivalent to secretaries to the central government, while an IRS official can never be a secretary, with the topmost positions reserved for the cadre — that of chairpersons of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Excise & Customs — are of the special secretary level, a notch below the secretary’s.

In comparison, there are over 150 posts of secretaries/equivalent rank meant for IAS officials.

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