New Delhi: The Indian Railways may not recruit for up to 7,000 positions in non-core operations that will soon fall vacant, two officials said.
Staffing solutions: Tracks being cleaned at the New Delhi railway station. The railways may also outsource more non-core functions to the private sector. But workers unions say they will oppose any hiring freeze. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
The non-core segments of the country’s largest public transporter include operations not directly linked to the running of trains, such as operating hospitals and schools for employees, and providing hygiene and hospitality services.
“We fell short of the revised revenue targets for 2008-09 by around Rs1,500 crore. Therefore, we are contemplating a freeze on fresh recruitment in non-core segments,” said a senior official on the railway board, which oversees the second largest rail network in the world. “We may also outsource some more of the existing functions to the private sector.”
Decisions on recruitment are taken by the six-member board.
Revenues of the railways are expected to grow by 8% in the fiscal year that began on 1 April, compared with a 12% growth in the previous fiscal year, this official said on condition of anonymity.
The Indian Railways recruits close to 35,000 people a year, said an official at the staff directorate of the railway ministry. Non-core sectors account for 20% of the railways’ staff strength, he said. The ministry official also declined to be named.
Sowmya Raghavan, financial commissioner, Indian Railways, declined to comment on the issue.
“I don’t see any reason why the railways need to cut staff strength. They have performed well despite the slowdown,” said former railway board member S.B. Ghosh Dastidar. “They have missed their target for last year only because the target was too steep.”
According to the board official quoted earlier, the railways expect to lose business in its container and iron-ore segments by around 5% and 2%, respectively, in the current fiscal. It also plans to introduce austerity measures, he said.
Basudeb Acharia, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on railways, said he will protest any such decision. “In the past 10 years, the railways have already slashed over 200,000 jobs. The railways hasn’t even discussed any move to cut jobs with us,” he said.
Shivgopal Mishra, general secretary of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation, which is affiliated with the Communist Party of India, said the union will resist any such move. “They have already introduced a circular stating that every department should surrender 50% of the posts that are considered non-essential and non-safety jobs, and we have registered our protest on the issue,” Mishra said.
“The performance of the railways have been satisfactory despite the slowdown and does not warrant any need on the part of the railways to freeze hiring,” said M. Raghavaiah, general secretary, National Federation of Indian Railwaymen, which is associated with the Indian National Trade Union Congress, the trade union arm of the Congress party. “If the ministry tries to freeze hiring, we will organize nation-wide strikes,” Raghavaiah said.