The Cabinet managed to balance Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s concern and the Labour Ministry’s objections over reduction of educational qualifications for recruitment of gangmen for Railways.
It agreed to make a one-time exception of reducing educational requirement for recruiting gangmen to help Banerjee meet the shortage of this work force required for safe running of trains.
Presently, 60,000 posts of gangmen are vacant. Towards the end of UPA I’s tenure, then minister Lalu Prasad had sanctioned the appointment of 47,000 gangmen. However, the recruitment process could not take off because the sixth pay commission stipulated enhanced criteria of educational qualifications for such posts.
In the pre-sixth pay commission period, candidates studying up till Class VIII could apply for the job; in the sixth pay commission passing Class X examinations became the cut-off.
At the meeting, Banerjee pushed for the the eligibility criteria reduction as the move would also help her create employment and win the support of this constituency, especially with Bengal elections coming up in 2011.
The Labour Ministry was opposed as compromising on requirements could also harm the railway and its safety record.