Will Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee fulfill her commitment that the catering staff of the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will not lose their jobs?
Posing this question are 2200-odd contractual staff of the IRCTC - left high and dry after the Railway Board's December 20 circular, offering railways jobs to only the corporation's directly recruited employees.
When applications for absorption in the railways closed last week, all the 1200 regular employees of the IRCTC had submitted their forms.
Banerjee - known for her pro-poor brand of politics - now stands the risk of doing injustice to the corporation's most vulnerable section of employees comprising categories including executives, personal secretaries/assistants, data entry operators, attendants and helpers.
The corporation's contractual employees mostly come from mediocre families, are mostly over-age for other government jobs, while some have invested in flats.
"The IRCTC conducted several recruitment drives in the last eight years, but we were never considered for regularisation of service", the contractual employees have said in a memorandum submitted to the Railways Minister on Monday.
Asking Banerjee to personally intervene and safeguard their livelihood, the contractual employees have suggested that they could be absorbed against the 5200 posts that the Railways have opened up for catering.
Following the new catering policy announced by the Railways July last, the future of the IRCTC - set up with great fanfare a decade back - has remained bleak.
With the new catering policy having divested the IRCTC of responsibilities to handle catering contracts, the organisation has been left gasping for breath.
An estimated 80 percent of the IRCTC's total business of Rs 629 crore last year had accrued from catering contracts.
Over past months, top corporation officials have been deserting the sinking ship. The corporation's company secretary lately moved out, while some of its directors are also scouting for jobs. "It is just a matter of time that the shutters will be brought down on the IRCTC", an official said.