Acting on the mantra of ‘perform or perish’, Indian Railways on Wednesday approved compulsory premature retirement of 19 senior officers, including 10 joint secretary level officers, who had adverse vigilance reports against them.
Invoking 56(J) of CCS Rules, which gives absolute right to the government to retire officials prematurely on grounds of lack of integrity and ineffectiveness, the move is perhaps the largest ever lay off by any government entity of such senior officers on a single day.
This is in addition to 75 officials who were forced to take VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) over the last 11 months, which included senior officials like general managers and secretaries. The senior-most official to take VRS was Railway Board member (traction and rolling stock) Rahul Jain, whose application was approved in January this year.
Under the VRS, an employee is paid a salary equivalent to two months’ pay for every year of service left. This benefit is not available in compulsory retirement.
In 2019, the national transporter had prematurely retired 32 of its officers above the age of 50 years on grounds of inefficiency, doubtful integrity and conduct unbecoming of a public servant as part of a periodic review. However, most of the officers were of the director level.
The Rule 56(J) of Fundamental Rules specifies how the government can ask employees to put in their papers. It says the appropriate authority has the absolute right to retire any government servant by giving him notice of not less than three months in writing or three months’ pay and allowances, if it finds so in public interest. Employees attaining 55 years are impacted under this rule.
Those who were made to retire on Wednesday include four senior officials each from the electrical and signalling services, three each from medical and civil, two from personnel and one each from stores, mechanical and traffic. The officials are from different zones, rail production units and also railways’ research organisation, RDSO.
“It is a clear and loud message that there is no place for those who are deadwood or have integrity issues,” said a senior Railway Ministry official, and added that several officers have also taken voluntary retirement since July 2021.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked all government departments to invoke this provision during a Pragati meeting in January 2016 to show the doors to erring and ineffective officers, hundreds of officers have been laid off.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, after assuming charge of Indian Railways last year, had warned slackers that they would be shown the door if they do not perform.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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