Officials and subordinate employees of the railways ministry are on a path of confrontation.
The provocation: The railway board decision to implement its circular of 21 June 2003 - instructing loco pilots to carry their own luggage when they take charge of the engines.
Traditionally, "box porters" have been assigned the tasks of delivering luggage to the drivers in a "metal box".
Weighing around 25 kilograms, the box contains dry ration and clothes for the drivers apart from on-board repair tools such as detonators, torches, wooden wedges and plugs besides literature including a trouble shooting directory.
In deciding to implement the circular, the railways top brass has taken the plea that "It is below the dignity in the present millennium for one individual to carry the load of another on his head".
Across 17 railway zones, approximately 4,000 employees have been working as box porters.
The railways propose to pay Rs 150 annually to the drivers to buy a canvas bag to carry their tools.
Train drivers have hit back, alleging that the railways top management was indulging in "double standards".
"The Railways grants approximately two lakh coolie licenses each year. If that is acceptable, how is it wrong for the box porters to carry the luggage of the drivers", asks Sanjay Pandhi of the Indian Railways Loco Running Organization (IRLRO).
Aggrieved against what they perceive as a strategy to demoralise their ranks, train drivers are working out a novel form of protest from November 14: Of dressing up as coolies when they take charge of the train engines.
"The metal box is the property of the railways. To burden loco pilots with this additional task of carrying the metal box is unjustified and unacceptable. If nothing else works, we will go on a strike", a train driver said on conditions of anonymity.
Railways officials assert that implementation orders of the 2003 circular have not been issued. But the Hindustan Times has obtained a copy of the circular's implementation order of October 19, 2011 that has been pasted on the driver's booking lobby. The orders have been issued by the senior divisional electrical engineer at New Delhi.