The buzz among Railway Protection Force personnel on the ground as well as in the force’s offices across the country is whether there are plans to hand over the control of the force from the railway ministry to the union home ministry.
The Bibek Debroy committee on restructuring of the railways has made such a recommendation, according to officials, though a query sent by dna to railway minister Suresh Prabhu and railway additional director-general PS Rawal about it did not elicit a response.
A section of RPF officers believes the move, if and when it happens, would be a win-win situation for commuters because it will allow the RPF to truly emerge as a law-enforcer rather than being a side department under the railway bureaucracy.
“At the moment, the RPF is in a situation where the general manager (GM) and the divisional railway managers (DRMs) write the annual confidential roll (ACR) of RPF officers. This puts the RPF at the mercy of the railway authorities. So, expecting it to go all-out against the railway bureaucracy while policing the railways is a tough ask,” said a senior RPF officer.
The transfer to the home ministry will mean the RPF can work on policing the system without having to fear the wrath of senior railway babus they might rub the wrong way. “It will be a bit like the officer of the Commissioner of Railway Safety, who actually reports to the civil aviation ministry,” said the official.
But another section believes the transfer won’t do much as the change in laws — allowing RPF to be the federal railway police nationwide — take care of it. “It requires change in laws so that there will be no state railway police but only the RPF, when it comes to the railways. It will make the railways for all purposes a state and the RPF its force. Also, the director general of the force should be the top authority on railways’ security affairs without interference from other parts of the railway bureaucracy,” said the official.
The transfer is, however, easier said than done, agreed both groups. “In case of a transfer to the home ministry, there will be a restructuring of the force and that could affect various levels, right from the sub-inspector to the additional DG ranks. That is something that will cause a lot of heartburn because for every new post created in a new category, one post will have to be reduced,” said an officer.
Incidentally, Prabhu is a votary of the RPF being given the status of the federal railway police. While inaugurating the RPF safety seminar in Mumbai on January 9, Prabhu had spoken about this concept — what he called ‘seamless policing’ — and the railway ministry and home ministry even had a discussion on it on January 15.