Mains Articles

Restructuring of Indian Railways [Mains Articles]

The restructuring of the Railway Board and merger of different departmental railway services into a unified central service was longstanding as mentioned by various committees and necessary to set a strategic direction to Indian Railways and enhance its efficiency.
By IT's Mains Articles Team
January 08, 2020


  • Introduction
  • Objective of the move
  • Background
  • Current Modus Operandi
  • Proposed Changes
  • Why are Civil servants opposing the move?
  • What escalated the move?
  • Current demand
  • Conclusion

Restructuring of Indian Railways

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  • The Union Cabinet has announced the restructuring of the Railway Board and merger of different departmental railway services into a unified central service.

What Railways restructure means4

Objective of the move:

  • To streamline the various departments and services of railways into one, infuse collective responsibility and end departmentalisation and the disagreements and divide among these services to ensure smooth working of the Railways.

Railways restructure approves 1


What Railways restructure means1

  • The Railways reforms had been suggested since long by various committees and the suggestions of the Prakash Tandon Committee, 1994 have been largely adopted.
  • The Bibek Debroy committee in 2015 have noted that “departmentalism” is a major problem in the system. The Debroy report recommended merging of all services to create two distinct services: Technical and Logistics.

Bibek Debroy committee in 2015

  • A separate exam under the Union Public Service Commission is proposed to be instituted in 2021 to induct IRMS officers.

Current Modus Operandi:

  • The Railway Board currently comprises of a Chairman and eight members, each representing the eight services of railways.

rail reform

  • The Indian Railways is governed by a pool of officers, among whom engineers are recruited after the Indian Engineering Service Examination, and Civil servants through the Civil Services Examination.
  • The engineers are in five technical service cadres —
  1. Indian Railway Service of Engineers (IRSE)
  2. Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME)
  3. Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE)
  4. Indian Railway Service Stores Services (IRSS)
  5. Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers (IRSSE)
  • The civil servants are in Non-Technical service cadres —
  1. Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS)
  2. Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS)
  3. Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS)

Proposed Changes:

Composition of Railway Board:

  • The number of Railway board members will be reduced from nine to five.
  • The Railway Board will now constitute of a Chairman and four members who will be responsible for infrastructure, operations and business development, rolling stock and finance respectively.
  • The Chairman shall be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Cadre Controlling Officer (CCO) responsible for Human Resources (HR) with assistance from a Director General (HR).
  • In lines of corporate sector, the Board will also have independent Members, who will be industry experts with at least 30 years of experience, but in non-executive roles and only attending Board meetings.
  • Performance will be the criteria for promotions, not seniority.

Recruitment Process:

  • The existing 8 Group A services (mentioned above) of the Indian railways will be merged to form a unified Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS).
  • The Cabinet has decided that a Group of Secretaries, and then a Group of Ministers through the ‘Alternate Mechanism’ will look over the merger.
  • The new recruitment into these services will be conducted through the UPSC Civil Services Examination.
  • Now, any eligible officer could occupy any post, including Board Member posts, irrespective of training and specialisation, since they will all belong to IRMS.
  • The aspirants can appear for IRMS under ‘technical’ operations or ‘non-technical’

Why are Civil servants opposing the move?

  • The questions started with a proposal to merge all 8,400 officers in the eight services — five technical and three non-technical — to prepare a common seniority list and a general pool of posts, especially in higher managerial ranks.
  • Officers protesting the government’s decision say that the merger is unscientific and against established norms, because it proposes to merge two fundamentally dissimilar entities, with multiple disparities.
  • First, the civil servants come from all walks of life after clearing the Civil Services Examination, whereas the engineers have qualified the Engineering Services Examination right after getting an engineering degree.
  • The engineers join the Railways around the age of 22-23, while the civil servants join when they are around 26, barring exceptions.
  • An officer, irrespective of seniority in his batch and acumen, requires at least two years of service left to be eligible for General Manager. There are 27 such posts, including as the heads of the 17 zonal railways.
  • Due to the age difference, the civil servants have often found themselves at a disadvantage since they don’t have the required service tenure left and thus there is lack of proportionate distribution.
  • In the fields where the Railways are actually operated, the share of civil servants in junior-to-middle levels is over 40%, but in higher grade management, their representation is only around 16-17%.
  • The civil servants fear after the merger even higher departmental posts will become open to all and engineers, being in larger numbers and of a certain age profile, may end up occupying most posts.
  • Also, the merger is against the service conditions which civil servants sign up for while choosing an alternative if they cannot make it to IAS.

What escalated the move?

1. The issue of promotion:

  • A department needs a constant supply of posts in higher grades to keep promoting its seniors so that the juniors can keep getting timely promotions.
  • The problem starts when, within a department, there are too many officers eligible for a few posts.

2. Work charged posts:

  • Each department has always intended a bigger share of resources to spend on projects, although the total available funds are low.
  • For the execution of each project, departments could create “temporary” posts, called “work-charged” posts, funded through money from the particular project.
  • Departments would seek more projects since the by-product was more work-charged posts — and that meant more promotional avenues for the department’s officers.
  • The departments grew, promotional prospects expanded, even if Railways did not deliver or gained profits.
  • The “temporary” posts were almost never surrendered, and were “regularised” over time and was most prevalent in the technical departments.

Current demand:

  • The current demand is for two distinct services instead of one — a civil services, and one that encompasses all engineering specialisations.
  • The logic is that functionally, departments will continue to exist through various technical and non-technical specialisations, so merging them will not end departmentalism per se.


  • The Revamp was longstanding as mentioned by various committees and necessary to set a strategic direction to Indian Railways and enhance its efficiency.
  • The process is expected to complete within one year and the exact details of the recruitment process are under process.


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