Dilli Ka Babu | Shramik Special disgrace: Can it be traced to crisis within Railways

The Asian Age.  | Dilip Cherian

Opinion, Columnists

Even within the organisation, there are reports of a brewing discontent among the officials

Migrants from Jaipur arrive by Shramik Special train at Danapur junction, during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus (PTI)

The Indian Railways is rightly under fire for messing up the return journey of fleeing migrants from the metros to their home states.

It tried to save face by claiming that the delays were due to train routes being purposely diverted to avoid heavy traffic congestion on certain routes. There may be few takers for that! But even within the organisation, there are reports of a brewing discontent among the officials.

It is being accused of practising discrimination in the promotion of officers. And, since during the Covid-induced lockdown many senior officers are unable to travel to present their case to the higher authorities, it is the Railway Board that is catching the flak.

The most talked-about case among rail babus is that of A.K. Kathpal, the principal chief mechanical engineer of Integral Coach Factory (ICF).

Recently, the appointments committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the promotion of four mechanical officers to the grade of an additional member, equivalent to general manager. Mr Kathpal, who was eligible, was denied promotion on the ground that there was a vigilance case against him.

Those who back Mr Kathpal’s claim to promotion argue that the vigilance cases against ICF officers involved in the Train 18 project are nowhere near a conclusion, and therefore it is wrong to use this as a ploy to deny promotion to a senior officer.

Apparently, the rules state that unless a vigilance case reaches finality and unless the Central Vigilance Commission recommends departmental proceedings against an officer, he cannot be denied promotion.

Also, the complaint against Mr Kathpal is now older than six months, in which case it cannot be taken cognisance of.

Many believe that Mr Kathpal was denied promotion to create a precedent to deny promotion to another mechanical officer to the post of additional member or secretary, Railway Board.

Clearly, there is an internecine power tussle within the Railways, which does not bode well for its functioning. The failure to perform during this migrant crisis may well be traced to the internal strife within the Railways.

It is cops vs cops

While internecine battles between various police services are pretty much common knowledge, of late these scuffles have been making media headlines. Three recent incidents show a rather unseemly side of the central police forces.

A comment by a J&K IPS officer of inspector general rank came under fire when he said that “the performance of the CRPF is not up to the mark”. He made this remark in the presence of CRPF officers who called his remarks “uncalled for” and “uninformed”.

Clearly, there is a simmering rift between J&K Police and the CRPF. Some CRPF officers say it reflects the contempt IPS officers have for officers of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).

In another episode, a seemingly ordinary order from the CRPF directing the withdrawal of orderlies attached to retired or repatriated CRPF officers who are essentially IPS officers has caused much outrage.

Further, the government transferred eight top CRPF officers in a surprise order and asked to move out of their posts the next morning a move the force is seeing as both “unprecedented” and an “affront” to the senior officers by the Indian Police Service (IPS) brass.

The roots of this tussle go long back. Officers of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), which includes the CRPF, have long resented IPS officers who come on deputation to these forces, and who they allege manage to keep the plum postings and relegate cadre officers to inferior positions in their own forces.

The IPS officers, on the other hand, justify their dominance of CAPFs cadre by citing historical reasons, citing that it is they who raised the various paramilitary forces and brought them to the present levels of organisation and efficiency.
Clearly, it is a battle for recognition.

The CAPFs are headed by IPS officers, leaving cadre officers with low promotion opportunities.

It is rare for a CAPF officer who starts his career as an assistant commandant a Group A post to reach the level of even an additional director general, let alone director-general. Most of them retire awaiting their turn as all these posts are reserved for IPS officers.

Though the Supreme Court had in 2019 given parity to the CAPFs with their IPS counterparts, the government is yet to implement these orders. And this delay is making matters worse.

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