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Rail officials rubbish Nitish recipe

New Delhi, Nov. 23: Railway minister Nitish Kumar today came up with a feeble solution to break the stalemate over recruitment to the railways that sparked a rash of parochial sentiments and violence against outsiders in Assam and Maharashtra in the past week.

Kumar tried to cap the controversy over the process of recruitment by suggesting that the railways would indicate the break-up of the vacancies across the 67 railway divisions in the country, giving the candidate the opportunity to indicate his preference for the division where he wanted to join.

“In the next phase of recruitment, the applications called for by the Regional Railway Boards (RRBs) will indicate the division of possible postings,” said Kumar.

“Earlier a candidate from Assam applying to the Guwahati RRB did not know whether the posting would be in Assam, Bihar or West Bengal. However, now we will indicate the number of posts in a region that have to be filled. Though the nature of employment will be on an all-India basis, it will give the candidate an idea of where he stands a better chance of getting a job,” said Kumar.

However, railway ministry officials were quick to rubbish the suggestion, saying these were cosmetic changes and would not end the raging controversy over recruitment taking place at a time when the Centre is trying to limit the size of its already bloated workforce.

Kumar reckons that under the system he has proposed, the candidate will know the division where he should apply and the likely region of posting.

Currently, the railways are divided into 16 zones, which are further sub-divided into 67 divisions. The 19 RRBs conduct the process of recruitment to these divisions. Of the 67 divisions, 18 fall under a single state while the remaining 49 divisions are spread over several states — and that’s where the present controversy stems from.

Railway officials say Kumar’s proposal will only give more powers to the divisional railway managers (DRMs) as they spell out to the RRBs how many people they want recruited in any given year.

Admitting this, a senior Railway Board member said: “Yes. But that is nothing new. The DRMs have always been spelling out the human resource needs for their divisions. However, it will bring about greater transparency in recruitment with candidates now aware of where they could be posted. If there are 10 post to be filled in division A and none in B and C, then the candidate will know that his posting will only be in division A.”

“It will be the candidate’s decision whether or not to apply to that division and the chances of securing a posting. The exams are being conducted in regional languages also. Preference is given to the locals in case of Group D postings since the recruits need to know the local dialect and culture plays an important role while managing the safety of the railway lines,” sources said.

“Unless the department of personnel and training (DOPT) gives a specific directive that region-specific recruitment can be done, the existing system will be followed,” Kumar said while coming up with his proposal.

Such a directive cannot be given without legislative amendment as the Supreme Court in its 1996 order said government employment opportunities should be publicised and should not be conducted through the regional employment exchanges.

“I am willing to send the necessary recommendations to whichever agency can help us resolve this issue,” the minister said.

“The railways are governed by the central government recruitment rules and will follow the directives of the DOPT which is the nodal agency to decide on any changes,” said Kumar.

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