With the Railways, some kind of a Peter’s Principle seems to be applying: The more the things have changed, the more they seem to remain the same.
Appointments to critical posts including those of General Managers (GMs) and Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) are pending. Four vacant Railway Board posts are unlikely to be filled up in the near future. Lobbying and one-upmanship for postings continues unhindered. In short, not many lessons have apparently been learnt from the Railgate scandal.
The exposure of a case of unabashed corruption involving former Railway Board member Mahesh Kumar triggered off a series of new experiments. One idea was that GMs and even Board members be appointed by a new inter-ministerial group through an interview process. Other mandarins thought that instead of the usual practice of forwarding three or four names for vigilance clearance and ACC approval, a bigger list of names be sent.
The outgoing Chairman Railway Board (CRB) Vinay Mittal sent not only the longest list (of nine names) for CVC clearance, but also sent them in installments. The Railways have also not initiated the process of finding a replacement for Mahesh Kumar to the post of Member (Staff).
“As a result, the process of appointing the new CRB and board members has been irretrievably delayed. Also, the floodgates have been opened once again to possibilities of manipulations for top posts,” an official said. Such apprehensions are not entirely ill-founded. Examples of budding careers that have been ruined are galore.
The appointment of AK Sanwalka as a general manager was inordinately delayed in 2004 – scuttling his further chances of becoming a board member. Rajeev Bhargava and Abhay Khanna fulfilled the criteria for appointment as board member and financial commissioner respectively, but were not considered for these jobs.
“Initiating a false vigilance case to block promotion prospects or disqualifying candidates on frivolous grounds is common. Promotion and postings rules are deliberately kept complicated and just one rule applies: Show me the man and I will show you the rule,” an officer said.