In a move that could see more scheduled caste and scheduled tribe (SC/ST) officers being promoted to the key position of divisional railway manager (DRM), railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge has proposed that the qualifying age criteria for these posts be raised from the present 52 years to 54.
Kharge advocates raising the age bar on the grounds that retirement age has risen in government departments from 55 to 58-60 years over the past few years, with some institutions even considering pushing it up to 65 or 68 years. “Correspondingly, the qualifying age for DRMs should also be raised as these posts are mandatory for elevation to top-level rail management posts, such as general manager or member of the Railway Board. But these are my personal views,” the minister told HT.
The Constitution gives SC/ST candidates taking tests for government jobs a five-year age relaxation. “These candidates are usually late entrants to government service and generally disqualified for DRM posts on grounds of being overage. Raising the age bar will open up further promotional avenues for such officers who are otherwise competent and deserving,” the SC/ST rail association said in a memorandum to Kharge last month.
Only a handful of SC/ST officers are among the 68 DRMs currently posted. Since Independence, just one SC officer has made the grade as general manager.
Approximately 20 new DRMs are scheduled to be appointed shortly. “The age criteria for the current lot has been kept at 52 years,” sources said.
The Federation of Railway Officers Association, however, has stiffly opposed the initiative, arguing that the Railway Board had a few years ago even been toying with the idea of reducing the qualifying age for DRMs from 52 to 50 years, so as to infuse more dynamism. “Flip-flops in promotional policy are uncalled for,” its honorary secretary general Shubhranshu said.
“I have discussed the subject with the Railway Board. Many officers are not in favour of raising the age bar, arguing that young elements should be promoted to such critical posts. I will have further and more detailed discussions on this,” Kharge said.