NEW DELHI, 15 JUNE: News reports about a pending vigilance probe against two front-runners for the post of chairman, Railway Board, justify the apprehensions of railway employees unions that there is lack of transparency in the appointment of top officials of the Railway Board, including the chairman and members.
Only two weeks before the incumbent CRB, Mr Vinay Mittal, is due to retire, there have been reports that the CBI has registered a preliminary enquiry against the front-runner for the post, Mr Kul Bhushan, and that a 10-year-old case against another eligible candidate, Mr R S Virdi, general manager of North Frontier Railway, may be reopened.
The charges against these two officials may or may not be true but their surfacing a fortnight before the vacancy arises and after empanelment of the candidates, points to inherent defects in the appointment process. The CRB’s post is equivalent to that of a principal secretary to the government. Railway employees unions have for long been demanding that the selection process to fill up top posts in the Railway Board be transparent and started six months before the post falls vacant.
Rail Bhavan sources recount several cases of promotion to top level posts being denied to deserving people because of fake and frivolous complaints lodged against them just before they were about to be promoted. If these officials had not been denied timely promotion on account of such frivolous charges leveled against them, they could well have been appointed CRB instead of the incumbent as well as his predecessor, the sources added.
The All India Railwaymen&’s Federation general secretary, Mr Shiv Gopal Mishra, said in order to avoid controversies, the incumbent CRB&’s successor should be named well in advance as is done in the services. Highlighting the scope for wrongdoing, the Federation of Railway Officers’ Association, has written to the Cabinet Secretary in the wake of the ‘cash for promotion’ scandal involving former railway minister Mr P K Bansal&’s nephew and a Railway Board member, Mr Mahesh Kumar.
The letter reads: “…even in the case of vacancies of Member, Railway Board, proposal to the Appointment Committee of Cabinet are sent at the eleventh hour, and sometime long after the vacancies have actually occurred. A Chairman, Railway Board, actually kept a member&’s post vacant for the entire duration of his Chairmanship and held dual charge”.
The letter alleged that general manager posts are kept vacant for months (in some cases over six months) leading to accumulation of a large pool of vacancies which creates “clamour” among aspirants and results in “compromises” being made for “prized postings”.
Pointing to the veil of secrecy over the formation of panels for filling up top level vacancies, the letter demanded the practice followed by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) be replicated in the railways. In DoPT, every panel is put on the web-portal.
Rail Bhavan sources recourt several cases of promotion to top posts being denied to deserving people because of false complaints being lodged against them just before their promotion