What Mamata Banerjee proposes, the Rail Ministry disposes.
Or so recent developments indicate.
Last Thursday, Banerjee told Parliament the Railway Board would directly handle catering services, as the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) had been divested of the responsibility.
When the Railways Minister made that statement, she had probably been unaware of a significant development: Ten days earlier, the Railway Board had already upturned her instructions.
In its commercial circular number 2009/TG/600/25, the Railway Board re-transferred powers of catering management of the premier Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duranto trains to the IRCTC.
“All departmental catering units shall continue to be managed and run by the IRCTC until the zonal railways are in a position to take over,” says the August 9 circular.
“The order does not reverse the Minister’s instructions. Catering will be taken over from the IRCTC in a phase-wise manner”, a ministry official said.
However, with the circular indicating no timeline for the Railways takeover of catering management, the new catering policy appears to have gone for a toss, some officials say.
The Hindustan Times was unable to reach the Railways Minister for her response.
Officialdom at Rail Bhawan has also not matched Banerjee’s sense of urgency about filling up vacant safety related posts.
Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs) have now been re-scheduled the examination dates, but the RRCs have shown no urgency to fill up posts through the interview process. Certain transfer requests from the Minister’s office are also said to have remained pending.
In keeping with her employee-friendly image, Banerjee had instructed the Railway Board to ensure that all eligible IRCTC employees were absorbed by the Railways.
These instructions are being flouted.
In a letter on June 5, the North Central railway zone has expressed its inability to absorb the IRCTC employees for fear of provoking ‘industrial disputes’.
Other zonal and divisional railways have forwarded a similar line of argument.