Wednesday, Jun 25, 2003
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By Vinay Kumar
The Railway Minister, Nitish Kumar's recommendation the Northern Railway general manager, R.K. Singh was sent back thrice by the Cabinet Secretariat with a number of queries on how Mr. Singh, who is not even a Railway Board member, could be appointed to head the Board. The Cabinet Secretariat has now left the decision to the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and his deputy, L.K. Advani. The present CRB, I.I.M.S. Rana, is due for retirement in less than a week.
Sources in the Railway Ministry say that for the first time there is a move to promote a general manager who has not even worked as a Board member.
The move has prompted a bitter tussle among the CRB probables, who have sent representations to the Cabinet Secretary, Kamal Pande.
At least five Railway Board members and general managers senior to Mr. Singh have represented to Mr. Pande, pointing out that appointing Mr. Singh will ignore the seniority of 14 officers, of whom three happen to be Board members and seven open-line general managers.
Working on the ambiguity of the tenure-linked rule of posting, the Minister has invoked the February 1987 resolution of the Ministry which stipulates that officers to be considered for the posts of Board members should "normally have a balance tenure of service of two years or more from the date of occurrence of the vacancy" and should "normally have worked for a period of one year in the grade preceding that of Member, Railway Board".
The preceding grade is that of the general manager.
Mr. Kumar's tenure as Railway Minister has seen the appointment of two CRBs R.N. Malhotra and I.I.M.S. Rana where the two-year tenure was neither invoked nor implemented.
Its implementation at this stage is a typical example of "Show me the person and I will show you the rule."
Anguished over the move, the Member (Mechanical), Railway Board, S. Dhasarathy, who should have taken over as the next CRB following the principle of seniority, and two other senior Members have threatened to quit rather than serve under a person much junior to them.
Though Mr. Dhasarathy is due for superannuation by September-end, out of the last 11 CRBs, seven have enjoyed a tenure of less than one year.
Senior Railway officers point out that the solution lies in selecting the senior-most suitable officer and giving him a two-year tenure. Selecting CRB on the basis of two years of residual service alone defies all norms of posting in civil services, they claim.
Sources say the 1987 rule has "in-built" ambiguity and scope for relaxation which is being sought to be exploited.
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