Moots CRB on a par with COAS
Adding a fresh chapter to the perennial struggle of other Group A civil service personnel to achieve parity with the highly privileged Indian Administrative Service (IAS) cadre in terms of status and rank, if not pay and allowances, railway minister Suresh Prabhu has written to the 7th Pay Commission recommending that the top layer of the Indian Railways bureaucracy be elevated. While the demand is not new, getting a minister to make the recommendation is unique.
If Prabhu’s proposal is accepted by the commission headed by justice Ashok Kumar Mathur, the chairman of the Railway Board (CRB) will get the rank of the chief of army the staff and counterparts in the navy and air force, who enjoy near-parity with the Cabinet secretary, the country’s senior-most civil servant and invariably from the IAS.
The CRB and members the Railway Board, who belong to various cadres like the Railway Traffic/Engineering Services, the Indian Audits and Accounts Service, etc, are currently ranked equivalent to a secretary to the government of India.
Besides the CRB, the Railway Board as the apex body of the national transporter currently includes eight members including the Finance Commission, the director general, Railway Health Services, and DG, Railway Protection Force.
Sources said Prabhu also proposed that railway zonal general managers — some 25 of them — could be elevated to the rank of chief secretaries of the states, who have the same rank as secretaries to the Union government.
Prabhu’s move, unprecedented by a railway minister, would give fresh ammunition to other cadres — principally the Indian Police Service and Indian Revenue Service — in their pitch for rewards commensurate with the members of the IAS. It could potentially lead to an increase in the Centre’s salary bill, in addition to what the commission’s recommendations would have caused otherwise.
The IPS and IRS associations have approached successive Pay Commissions with similar demands in the past, but with limited or no success, partly because these demands have never got endorsed by the political executive. The differential Grade Pays for IAS and non-IAS officers brought in by the 6th Pay Commission only widened the disparity.
Although sources said that the status change proposed for scores of top railway officials won’t result in a significant increase in their salary packages, the fact remains that pay and allowances are closely linked to rank.
Analysts said the Pay Commission would find it hard to give secretary-to-GoI status to some 35 officers with the railways without accepting similar demands from IPS and IRS associations. Either the commission would be liberal to the pleas from all Group A services or deny them all, they said.
The IPS cadre, manned by people immediately following those selected for IAS and IFS in the UPSC rank list, has less than 10 posts equivalent to secretaries to the central government, while an IRS official can never be a secretary, with the topmost positions reserved for the cadre — that of chairpersons of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and Central Board of Excise & Customs — are of the special secretary level, a notch below the secretary’s.
In comparison, there are over 150 posts of secretaries/equivalent rank meant for IAS officials.