At a time when the NDA promises to develop major educational hubs in poll-bound Bihar, the move of the ministry of railways to wind up a British-era graduate institute for railway mechanical engineers at Jamalpur threatens to erupt into a full-fledged political war.
In a letter to railway minister Suresh Prabhu, Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar expressed surprise at the move at a juncture when the “catch-them-young” policy was being pursued by organisations. “Given its rich tradition of excellence, the Indian Railway Institute of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Jamalpur should, in fact, be upgraded as a Railway University,” Kumar’s letter says.
The controversy arose after Railway Board member Pradeep Kumar’s August 31 letter to Union Public Services Commission secretary Ashim Khurana, asking him to “discontinue the recruitment of candidates for induction into the Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME) through the Special Class Railway Apprentice (SCRA) examination”.Though the letter says the decision has the “approval of the railway minister”, IRSME officials say the move is being taken through a “secretive” route without seeking approval of the cabinet and parliament.
The narrative has components of departmental rivalries, as Jamalpur graduates — being the youngest to enter railway service — have usually had a disproportionately high share of senior level posts as divisional railway managers and general managers. Class XII pass-outs inducted at Jamalpur for the four-year SCRA scheme following a competitive examination make their entry into the Railway Service usually have an age advantage over other candidates.
“But an institute of established excellence cannot be killed to assuage departmental rivalries,” an official said. “If Railways do not rescind their decision, the issue will be raised in the ongoing campaign,” a senior JD (U) leader said.