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Indian Railways puts an end to VIP culture with new norms, changes 36-year old practice

Indian Railways has intensified its fight against VIP culture. In an unprecedented move, the ministry has brought to an end a 36-year-old protocol where it was mandatory for general managers to present themselves on arrival and departure of the Railway Board chairman and other board members during zonal visits.

The railway ministry has asked its senior staff to slug it out — at home and at work — as part of steps to end the VIP culture in India’s national transporter.

As part of a massive overhaul of the culture of privilege prevalent in the ministry, the Railway Board has decided to do away with the instructions of a 1981 circular that mandated such protocol.

PM Narendra Modi has always opposed VIP culture and had advocated the concept of EIP: “Every Person is Important”. Following the same path, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has scrapped a 36-year old practice to end VIP culture. Piyush Goyal has asked senior officials to give up travelling in cosy saloons and executive class privileges and start travelling in Sleeper and AC 3-tier, mingling with other passengers.

The Railways’ strategy is in line with the NDA government’s stand, which has consistently opposed VIP culture. Earlier, it had banned red beacons on VIP cars, much to the disappointment of many officials.

In an order on September 28, the ministry said that the instructions and guidelines issued to the railways regarding the protocol to be observed at airports and railway stations during the visit of the Railway Board chairman and other board members stand withdrawn with immediate effect.

Railway Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who took charge in August, had urged removal of VIP culture right after he took office. He said no official will entertain bouquets and gifts at any time.

He had asked young officers to spend more time on the field rather than on clearing files in the comfort of the office.

To enforce equality, he had ordered removal of name plates from chambers of some senior officers in the Rail Bhavan.

However, it’s not just in the office that senior officials of the national carrier have to exercise restraint, but also at home. All senior officials have to relieve all the railway staff who have been engaged as domestic help in their homes.

Officials say that around 30,000 trackmen work at the homes of senior officials. They have been asked to resume duties. Sources in the ministry say that in the past one month around 6,000-7,000 personnel have reported back to work.

“No one will be exempt from the directive to rejoin work except under very special circumstances. We are hoping that all the staff will join work shortly,” a senior official of the ministry said.

These include members of the Railway Board, general managers of railway zones and divisional railway managers in each of the 50 divisions.

“I believe that when these protocols were in place, people drafting them would have seen some reasoning behind them. It is difficult for me to say what they were though. However, now, these have no logic.

“Also, there is a tendency in public organisations to not review protocols which have become archaic, but remain part of the dos and don’ts for officials. They should be reviewed on a regular basis,” said a former railway board member who didn’t want to be quoted.

Government officials said they are also attempting to trim the list of people being provided special security.

(Inputs from agencies)


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