Railway Minister Piyush Goyal met senior officials of the Railway Protection Force today amidst chatter that his ministry was considering a proposal for transferring the RPF to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Goyal, however, steered clear of the matter in the meeting and concentrated on addressing various issues of the RPF staff — their welfare, parity in promotions and confidence building among personnel. He sought ideas from the officials on how to enhance security of railways and passengers, especially women. Some of the RPF officials, who came here from across the country, told PTI after the meeting that they were expecting the minister to discuss the proposal, but were glad that he did not. “We were apprehensive about it. Now, we think that, maybe, like earlier times it won’t go further and that’s why it was not discussed,” said an RPF official. However, ministry officials said that no decision had yet taken place on the issue, which, sources said, was being opposed by both the RPF union as well as the Railway Board. In fact, several times in the past efforts to move the railways’ force to the MHA had been thwarted. “The minister is yet to meet us on the issue, but we are against any move to transfer RPF to MHA. “It is our constitutional right to form unions and no one can deny us that. How can anyone say that RPF personnel should disassociate from unions,” RPF Association General Secretary U S Jha told PTI.
According to rules, no union activities are permitted within military and paramilitary forces by the government by invoking Article 33 of the Constitution under which rights of forces meant for public order can be restricted by an act of Parliament. If the RPF is shifted to the Home Ministry, the permission for formation of union, granted to the railway force in 1999, was likely to be withdrawn. At present, the offences of theft of railway property are being looked into by the RPF while the law and order, which is a state subject, is being dealt with by the Government Railway Police (GRP).