Indian Railways has recently come up with a couple of surprises – first with the introduction of IRMS, and then the withdrawal of Railways vacancies through ESE 2020. Mr. Kanchan Kumar Thakur, in conversation with Mr. Ompal Singh, Former Chief Administrative Officer, Central Organisation for Railways Electrification, tries to reason out the way forward for the students aspiring for Railway Services.

Mr. Kanchan Kumar Thakur: Recently Indian Railways has announced the introduction of Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS). What was the reason for this implementation of proposed organisational restructuring of Railways in a hurry?

Mr. Ompal Singh: This decision is well thought, and this has not been taken in a hurry as such. As I know, the thinking about restructuring in Railways has been going on for many years, and many committees have been set up for this purpose, and their recommendations have also been framed. Some of them been accepted also. But somehow the structural changes proposed by those committees or thought by Railways had not been implemented. So, this is a very bold and right step taken by the Ministry of Railways for introducing structural changes. And, combining eight different services into one common service is a very good step, and a very timely taken step for restoring the financial health of the Railways, and the functioning of the Railways.

Mr. Thakur: Why I am saying that this step was taken in a hurry because students generally believe that first Railways introduces IRMS, and then within a very short duration they also withdrew vacancies for Engineering Services Examination 2020 (ESE 2020). Do you think it would have been better if Railways would have been more considerate in keeping the vacancies intact for this year, appoint Railway officers through IRMS from the next cycle?

Mr. Singh: Well the students might think so as they are not seeing the bigger picture about their career. If a slight delay takes place in their exam or their selection in the Indian Railways then I think that it would be better than having a career full of grouses on getting through different eight services. So, Railways have withdrawn the vacancies just to frame rules for the common service which they have to introduce in place of eight different services. So, in my opinion this decision is for the benefit of those candidates who will join Railways and work as class ‘A’ officers in one of these different eight services now clubbed as IRMS as one single service.

Now, they will have a more satisfying career and a better future in Railways that is why it is in their interest that they have to wait for this, and once the vacancies are re-advertised, they plan for their exam accordingly.

Mr. Thakur: If we try to understand the term ‘IRMS’, do you think that anything related to management is being given more important?

Mr. Singh: Most of the working of officers in Railways involve the management part only. Therefore, the new name of the service i.e. IRMS has been correctly designated, and the word ‘management’ in any case was there, and will continue to be there. It was just to have a common name, that’s it. The management has already been done by officers in Railways from all the eight different organisations of the services as such.

Mr. Thakur: You mean to say that the domain knowledge like if somebody is from Civil, Mechanical or Electrical Engineering, the importance of these engineering fields in Railways will remain intact. It is just a change in the name that is being proposed.

Mr. Singh: To my information, the field domain of various services will continue to remain same up to certain level. May be up to Principal Head of the Department level, or may be a level below that, and after that may be up to Member Railway Board level, they will get merged. But field domain knowledge will remain intact with the respective departments. That’s how I feel.

Mr. Thakur: It means whenever they announce the IRMS vacancies, they are going to conduct examination for the technical paper as was being done previously?

Mr. Singh: Well the pattern is yet to be finalised by the Ministry of Railways in consultation with UPSC and all. But as I understand, there would be common Prelims exam for all the candidates, and then there will be a separate Mains exam for respective services which will involve testing their respective field knowledge basically. There are going to be two stage exams in this before interview.

Mr. Thakur: You are suggesting that there could be a Preliminary stage examination, and there would be Mains examination. Do you have any idea what could be the syllabus for the Preliminary and Mains examination?

Mr. Singh: The exact syllabus has not been set up so far, but in my opinion the Railway Ministry must be working hard on it. The common exam could only be the Preliminary exam, the respective exams of the different engineering disciplines will be as per their ongoing exam pattern. There might be some changes in the syllabus. However, the exact pattern would be known only after it is published once the rules are framed for IRMS.

Mr. Thakur: How long will it take for the picture to be clear?

Mr. Singh: I really don’t know, but it might take few months in framing the rules completely.

Mr. Thakur: Do you have any idea about the change in vacancies that might take place due to the introduction of IRMS in Indian Railways?

Mr. Singh: Vacancies might get rationalised. In some departments, the vacancies might get reduced, and in some departments, they might get increased also. But rationalisation of vacancies would be there.

Mr. Thakur: What is the reason behind this explanation i.e. on what basis are you saying so?

Mr. Singh: Basically, vacancies should be as per the work load of the departments. And, the concerned department should advertise only those vacancies which are actually needed for the working of the department. As earlier, there were eight different services, they were freely advertising their vacancies as per their own wish while the load may or may not be there in the department in commensuration with the vacancies they ask for. The purpose of having this kind of arrangement i.e. having a common service for the Railways is that only a combined rationalisation of the workload versus vacancies take place, and the vacancies are advertised only for the existing or anticipated workload in the department.

Mr. Thakur: Many students have the fear that probably this step of the government is to favour privatisation of Indian Railways. What is your take on it?

Mr. Singh: I don’t think so. Though I don’t have any authorised information on that but as of now whatever I have gathered from the media or any other sources, I don’t have any information that Railways is going to get privatised.

Mr. Thakur: Many students also ask that since Railways have withdrawn the vacancies, can they write to any authority or they can do some representation somewhere that could change this step of Indian Railways?

Mr. Singh: I don’t think so because they are candidates, and they should keep preparing for the exam. The exam still might take place for this place also. For instance, Prelims may take place in May end or early June, the Mains can take place in August, and the vacancies can get filled. But I don’t know about the exact time schedule.

Mr. Thakur: But unless this complete picture is clear, nobody would be in a position to tell that what would be the future of this IRMS.

Mr. Singh: Well… every change has some uncertainties; this change also has its part that way but we hope that everything will be clear in a month or two.

Mr. Thakur: What do you suggest to the students who are in panic at this moment as they are preparing for the last three-four years, and as now the vacancies have been withdrawn, they are so much perturbed that they are thinking of not preparing any further, and things like that? What do you suggest to students at this point of time?

Mr. Singh: I suggest that they should keep preparing sincerely. The vacancies would get advertised. It might take some time, but it will get advertised. Railways is definitely going to hire engineers.

Mr. Thakur: My suggestion to the students is also the same that there are many other examinations to appear for. Instead of wasting their time, bothering about these things, they should continue preparing for the examinations, and whatever decision the government takes, it would be in the interest of the organisation, and also in the future of the students. So, instead of getting perturbed, let us go on preparing seriously without wasting the time.

Thank you so much sir for this discussion.

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