With the economy on a downward spiral, Indian Railways has directed all zonal railways to freeze new posts except those in the safety category, a critical move in the times of pandemic.
Acting upon the directive, several zones have started the downsizing exercise identifying posts such as peon, account clerk, steno, helpers, teacher, hospital attendant, hospital cleaner, cook, painter, fitter, mason, chowkidar, lab assistant among others to be done away with, affecting many.
According to the latest Railways Action Plan for Economic Measure and Rationalisation of Expenditure sent to all zones and production units, a detailed plan is being worked out for "Freezing new posts except safety till further orders."
The directive further sought "review of posts created in the last two years and if recruitment has not been done against these posts reviewing the same for surrendering and surrendering 50% of existing vacancies in other than safety category."
While all over the Railways the number of such posts are in thousands, South Eastern Railway (SER) has identified 3,681 posts in non-safety category likely to be affected. In a letter written by South Eastern Railway to all Divisional Railway Managers and department heads, the zone has sought compliance report by July 10.
"In compliance with Board instruction please ensure that 50% of the stated existing vacancies are surrendered immediately and surrender memos are issued to this effect without delay," stated the SER letter to all concerned in the zone.
NewsClick has learnt that similar moves are being planned in other zones as well to abide by the Railway Board decision. However, railways maintain that it is looking at re-skilling its manpower, and moving away from unskilled jobs. It also emphasises that the exercise will not result in "net job reduction" as surrendering of non functional, non-safety vacant posts would help in creating additional safety posts for new rail infrastructure projects and owing to technological intervention, the profile of jobs is expected to change.
Also read: COVID-19: Indian Railways Plans Massive Expenditure Cuts to Tide over Economic Crisis
“We won’t curtail jobs. Job profiles may change, but there won’t be job cuts,” Anand S Khati, Director General, Human Resource at Railway Board has said.
As of now there is a backlog of 2.90 lakh posts in Indian Railways of which recruitment process for around 1.46 lakh has begun since 2018. Of the notified vacancies, 72,274 are for the safety category, and 68,366 are non-safety category posts.
Clearing the air about recruitment, Khati said, "All ongoing recruitment drives for various categories of posts will continue as usual." He further said it is not downsizing but rightsizing the workforce as the move is part of the exercise of the Indian Railways that began last year.
Railways last year's expenditure on IT infrastructure was 1.5 lakh crore while that for the current fiscal is pegged at Rs 1.61 lakh crore.
“When the focus is on modernisation and automation, it may have some impact on manpower," Khati said.
The Railways currently has 12,18,335 employees and spends 65% of its income on payment of salaries and pension.
"Due to technological interventions in the national transporter, certain job profiles might change, wherein the personnel will be re-skilled, but there will be no job losses. Let there be no doubt that the Indian Railways will remain the largest employer in the country. We will move from unskilled to more skilled jobs," he said.
Railways also maintains that modern technology has resulted in needs arising in many new areas, thereby reorientation and repositioning of resources is an imperative. Besides, it had also asked the zones to review contracts, reduce energy consumption and cut cost in administrative and other areas.
Reeling under heavy losses in passenger business, recently Indian Railways has taken steps seeking private sector participation to run 151 modern trains on 109 routes, amid the opposition from political parties and unions.