The rail officialdom has been struck with a double whammy of sorts: A virtual freeze has been placed on postings to critical posts of divisional railway managers (DRMs). That’s because the ministry had filed an appeal in the high court against last year’s order of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) upholding an appeal of three officers that they be elevated to the post.
Until a stay on the CAT order gets vacated by the higher court, officers aspiring for these posts will need to cool their heels.
Promotional avenues at the level of general managers (GMs) have, meanwhile, been blocked for another reason: The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has rejected the panel of names recommended by the Railways — finding serious incongruities in the appointment process — and has directed the ministry to reconsider the entire proposal for empanelment of officers as GMs.
In both the cases, it is the top rail hierarchy — the Railway Board — that is the target of criticism amongst officers aspiring to become DRMs or GMs. The commonly heard criticism is that the policy on promotions followed by the Railway Board continues to remain arbitrary and high-handed — violating the principles of merit and equal opportunity.
Such criticism is not without basis. For its 68 divisions, the Railways should normally be appointing 34 DRMs each year for a two year term. However, as official records show, numbers of officials elevated to these posts have fluctuated from 36 in 2009-10 to 46 in 2010-11 to 24 in 2011-12, 21 in 2012-13 and 16 in 2013-14.
“The appointment process for DRMs — a pre-requisite for further promotions as GMs or above — continues to remain non-transparent and whimsical. This promotes corruption and favoritism,” alleged an official.
In an internal note dated September 26, the ACC slammed the Railways for adopting a “different criteria each time for the empanelment to posts of GMs”, raising serious objections over the complex web of appointment norms formed by the public transporter.
The note expresses surprise that officers assessed as outstanding in their performance evaluation were subsequently declared ‘unfit’ for the posts of GM (Open Line) and points to other cases concerning certain officers who — despite having been recommended as being fit for posts of Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) for consecutive years — were kept out of the reckoning of GM (Open Line) posts on grounds that they did not have work experience as DRMs.
Seeking to bring transparency to the process, the PMO has, for the first time, directed the Railways to obtain ACC approval for DRM postings as well.