New Delhi: Despite pressure from railway employees and unions, the Railway Board has issued instructions to the general managers of zones across the country to surrender 50 per cent of the existing vacancies in the railways.
In a letter dated 24 November, the Railway Board has asked the general managers to put a freeze on all new posts, except safety, review all posts created in the last two years and consider surrendering the ones that have not been filled so far, and surrender 50 per cent of all existing vacancies other than in the safety category.
The move comes after the Ministry of Railways first communicated in June this year that the national transporter, which is the biggest employer in the country, needs to adopt a series of austerity measures to tide over the losses incurred in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“Rationalisation of vacancies and expenditure management is an important exercise which every organisation does including those in the Government of India. This internal note should be seen in that context only,” ministry spokesperson D.J. Narain told ThePrint in response to queries regarding the note.
He also sought to add that the communication should not be seen as a move to reduce government jobs.
“It may be noted that Indian Railways is in the process of conducting examination for selection of record number of vacancies of almost 1.4 lakhs. The selection process is starting from 15 December 2020 in which more than 2.4 crore candidates are expected to participate,” said Narain.
He also said the Railways is completing the training and joining of Assistant Loco Pilots (ALPs) in a phased manner, which should be completed by August 2021.
“So the Indian Railways is going to add to the number of vacancies filled in rather than having reduction in the same,” he added. “So fears about reduction in jobs, if being expressed by anyone, are baseless without any factual basis.”
Fears of reduction in recruitment
The communication issued by the ministry comes just months after it decided to terminate the services of thousands of retired Indian Railways’ employees who were re-engaged last year in a bid to cut its expenses to ease the lockdown hit.
“There are fears in the Railways that the ministry is looking to reduce recruitment and posts since it is suffering from massive losses this year,” a senior official of the Northern Railways said.
“Even though the government has not asked for removing existing filled posts so far, there is a degree of apprehension and uncertainty among the staff,” the official added. “This also comes at a time when even senior officials within the ministry could face transfers out of the Railway Board because the government wants to downsize that staff too.”
The ministry has been seeking to remove several posts from the Railway Board as part of an attempt to have a leaner rail bureaucracy.