Dilli ka Babu | Revamp of railway services sure to trigger a turf war

Columnist  | Dilip Cherian

Opinion, Columnists

The revamp includes a merger of services. Now which babu wants that?

V K Yadav will be the first CEO of the Railway Board.

The Narendra Modi government is going ahead with the restructuring of the Railway Board, the powerful body that governs the Indian Railways. The Cabinet recently said OK to the revamp, and also decided to merge all central railway service cadres into a single Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS).

The board will now have five members. The present chairman, V K Yadav, will be the Railway Board's first CEO. It will also have independent members in non-executive roles.

Apart from Yadav as chairman and CEO, Pradeep Kumar has been appointed as member, infrastructure; P.C. Sharma as member, traction and rolling stock; P.S. Mishra as member, operations and business development; and Manjula Rangarajan as member, finance.

In the new structure, the chairman will be the cadre-controlling officer responsible for human resources, assisted by a director-general. Three apex posts will be surrendered. Railway Board posts will be open to all officers regardless of the service to which they belong.

The government says that the revamp will end jealousies between departments, which have hampered the growth and efficiency of the railways for decades. But not all railway officers are pleased with the revamp. Their first objection is to the merger of cadres. They say the government is seeking to merge fundamentally dissimilar services. They advocate instead two distinct services instead of one — civil services and engineering.

According to sources, murmurs of protest are rising, and railway unions are planning a series of protests against the move.

Three newbies in PMO

The appointment of three IAS officers adds heft to the Prime Minister’s Office, which is the most powerful PMO ever. The new officers are Raghuraj Rajendran of Madhya Pradesh as director, Amrapali Kata of the Andhra Pradesh cadre as deputy secretary, and Mangesh Ghildiyal of the Uttarakhand cadre as under-secretary.

Rajendran was earlier private secretary to petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Amrapali Kata, (2010 batch) was deputy secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat (intelligence). Ghildiyal worked with the Uttarakhand government.

These appointments make the three officers seem like high-fliers. They have clearly been chosen for their track record. In the presidential-style PMO of Narendra Modi, they are expected to focus on tough decisions and show results.

UP’s dubious crackdown

Though public perception is to the contrary, the Uttar Pradesh government claims it has a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption, and spouts data to prove it. According to sources, since coming to power three years ago, Yogi Adityanath has cracked the whip on around 800 government officials. Just recently the government suspended two IPS officers, Abhishek Dikshit, the senior superintendent of Prayagraj, and Manilal Patidar, superintendent of Mahoba, for involvement in corrupt practices and “lax policing”.

The data shows that it has acted against more than 775 officials so far, including some retired officials who were found complicit in malpractices. The government has forcibly retired 325 officials and suspended and demoted over 450 babus.

But, sources say, despite the government’s crackdown, some suspended officers have wriggled back into plum postings. J.B. Singh, Gonda DM, was suspended in June 2018, along with Kumar Prashant, DM of Fatehpur, and faced disciplinary action over irregularities in the procurement of wheat. But Singh’s stint in the wilderness was short-lived. In 2019 he was appointed the DM of Etawah.

Kumar Prashant too found himself back in favour. Last year he became the DM of Badaun, a more important district than Fatehpur. There are other instances, say sources, where after a brief period of lying low, suspended officials got back in the saddle.

Share a babu experience! Follow dilipthecherian@Twitter.com. Let’s multiply the effect.