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Railway Employees to be paid Defined Pension instead of NPS – NFIR demands

NFIR says Work nature of Railway Employees is no less arduous to that of Defence Personnel who are exempted from NPS and paid with Defined Pension in respect of personnel joined on or after 01.01.2004 too

National Federation of Indian Railwaymen has requested the Member Staff of Railway Board to consider defined Pension instead of NPS.

NFIR
National Federation of Indian Railwaymen
3, CHELMSFORD ROAD,NEW DELHI-11O055

Affiliated to :
Indian National Trade Union Congress(INTUC)
International Transport Workers’ Federation(lTF)

No.IV/NPS/PFRDA BILL
Dated:26/08/2015

The Member Staff,
Railway Board,
New Delhi

Dear Sir,

Sub: Exemption of Railway employees appointed on or after 01/01/2004 from the application of National Pension System(NPS)- reg.

Ref: (i) MS’s do. no. 2012/F(E)III/1/4Pt. dated 04/03/2015 addressed to the Secretary, DoP&T, North Block, New Delhi.
(ii) Adviser, MoF (Department
of Financial Services) New Delhi do. no. 08-01/2014-PR dated 15/05/2015.
(iii) Railway Board’s letter No. 2015/E(LR)II/ 13/3 dated 28/07/2015.

Kind attention is invited to the meeting held by the Federations with the Board (MS) on 20th July 2015 on 6 important issues raised by the Federations in their joint representations dated 19th May & 07th July 2015. Also attention is invited to the record note of discussions held on 20th July 2015 vide item no. 2 – “Exemption of Railways from New Pension Scheme-Hon’ble Minister for Railways sent proposal to Finance Minister on 29th March 2014 and thereafter the Railway Board has sent reminder to the MoF.”

In the meeting held on 2oth July 2015, the Railway Board (MS) has made available to the NFIR a copy of reply dated 15th May 2015 received from the department of financial services and suggested that the Federations may study the same and get back. However, on perusal of the contents of reply sent by the Adviser, MoF, the Federation felt disappointed that the points brought out by Hon’ble MR through his D.O. letter dated 29th March, 2014 have not been given weightage by the Finance Ministry. In this connection, NFIR places below vital points which require reconsideration for reviewing the case by the Government of India:-

  • Indian Railways is the complex transportation system fully owned by the Government.
  • The Indian Railways plays crucial role in economic growth of the country, ensuring transportation of various commodities including food-grains, perishables besides eco-friendly transportation of passengers. The services provided by Indian Railways also include rapid movement of army and the para-military forces from one comer to another in the times of crises and when the security of the country is at stake.

The role of Indian Railways thus cannot be underestimated under any circumstances.

2. The New Pension System (NPS) introduced by the Government of India has not been made applicable to the following services/states:-

(a) Personnel in Armed Forces,
(b) Personnel working in para-military establishments,
(c) West Bengal, Kerala & Tripura States.

3. As stated by the Ministry of Finance in its reply, the Government has been able to extend the “benefit of gratuity, invalid pension, family pension, disability pension and extra-ordinary pension on par with the liberalized pension scheme only provisionally”, itself establishes that prima-facie the demand of the Federation seeking coverage of Liberalized Pension Scheme to the Railway employees appointed on or after 01/01/2004 is genuine and merits consideration.

It is worth-mentioning that though the Indian Army fights war once in decades, the Railway employees face war situations in their day-to-day working viz derailment, accidents, breaches, bandhs, civil disobedience movements, inclement weather conditions etc., and always provide backup support in maintaining supply line. In support, Federation desires to cite following extracts from the report of “The. Railway Safety Review Committee 1998” – Part-I headed by Justice HR Khanna, Retired Supreme Court Judge:-

“During the colonial period, the Railways was conceived and operated as an auxiliary wing of the Army, primarily because it provided the transport muscle that enabled rapid movement of troops across the Indian sub-continent. There was, however, another less visible but important reason for the close linkage with the Army. The colonizers realized that the Railways, by virtue of its complex nature, required a high degree of discipline and efficiency to be able to perform its role as the prime transport mode. This, in turn, meant a system of working more closely allied to the Armed Forces than the sometimes lax civilian forms. Thus historically, Indian Railways (IR) has functioned differently from other Government Institutions.”

In the report, the Justice Khanna had further stated that it is not only unrealistic but also dangerous to treat the Railways and its problems on par with other Government departments which has unfortunately been the case with the Indian Railways post independence.

4. Apart from above, Federation desires to mention that the working of the Indian Railways is quite unique in its nature and distinctive in character. A lot of challenges are required to be faced to make the railway system safe, reliable, efficient and capable of fulfilling the needs of not only of public through transportation of passengers and other products like Iron ore, fertilizers, minerals, food-grains etc., but also ensuring security of the country by reaching the Nation’s borders. During the course of performance of duties a number of Railway employees lose their lives and also sustains injuries like Military and para-military forces. The report submitted by the High Level Safety Review Committee, comprising of Technocrats and Specialists in the field led by eminent scientist Dr Anil Kakodkar had highlighted following figures in respect of railway employees Vis-a-vis passengers/general public killed and injured during the year 2007/08 to 2011:-

Killed

Injured

(a) Railway employees

1600

8700

(b) Passenger/Public

1019

2110

(c) Unmanned Level crossing

723

690

The above position is sufficient to prove that the working of Railway staff cannot be treated as less arduous than the Military and Para-military personnel and there is need that Railway employees joined in service on or after 01/01/2004 are exempted from the application of New Pension Scheme, presently called National Pension System and they should continued to be governed by the Liberalized Pension Scheme (called as Railway Services (Pension) Rules, 1993) or Railway Services (Extraordinary Pension) Rules, 1993.

5. The uniqueness of Indian Railways and the crucial role played by the Railway employees in providing uninterrupted services for 24 hours a day throughout the year can be gauged from the following factors which cannot be ignored under any circumstances:-

  • hazards induced by job environments, working conditions and capital health which are totally uncommon. These conditions prevail only in Armed Forces,
  • Rigorous medical standards, periodic updating of skills, workforce to prepare itself to match with changed technological up-gradation-Unique to Railways.
  • Railway employees job profile have built in integration of performance-cum-safety, execution-cum-self certification besides extended duty hours demanded by critical operational regime,
  • Like Armed Forces, the Railway employees are expected to remain at their Headquarters/ Stations even while availing periodic rest and they should report to duty in exigency or emergency and in the event of any untoward eventuality. Without prior permission they cannot leave Headquarters even during Rest Day. This system is not prevailing in any other Central Government Organization,
  • Even when ‘they avail leave, they are expected to give the ‘address on leave’ facilitating the Railway management to summon them to take up duty at a short notice. This is akin to that of Armed Forces.
  • Railway employees are expected to rise to the occasion in the event of any crisis like accidents, floods, sabotage etc., voluntarily even while on leave and assist the system.

The above provisions are in-built in various Rules laid down by the Railways.

5.1 The uniqueness in duties performed by the Railway employees are unmatched & second to none, is that the employee has to continue on duty and to wait for his reliever to take charge and he is not expected to leave the post although duty hours are completed unless and until his reliever reports and takes charge, e.g. Train Controller, Station Master, Electric Signal Maintainer, Technical staff, Loco Pilots, Guards, Points Men, Technical Supervisors etc. Thus their nature of duties is similar to that of defence personnel.

5.2 The Railway employees are exposed to risks in the course of performance of their duties as listed below:-

  • While performing duties whether running the trains, maintaining Tracks/S&T assets and attending to under-gears of the rolling stock (the staff sneak in between two rails, for maintenance purpose for ensuring train formations fit to run).
  • Continuously working under open Sky, in remote/jungle areas facing inclement weather conditions, susceptible to air pollution and high decibel noise which are unique so far as hazardous working conditions faced by vast majority of railway employees similar to the conditions faced by army personnel during conflicts with enemy.
  • Vast majority of Railway employees work at remote places, jungle areas and road side stations where amenities and living conditions do not exist – this is similar to that of Defence forces,
  • Nature of Railwaymen’s working is against cultural harmony, biological clock i.e. round the clock working in shifts, continuous night duties resulting into irregular living like that of military/para-military personnel.
  • Railway employees are exposed to attacks by anti-social elements in the course of performing duties similar to the situations faced by para-military staff,
  • Railway employees are liable for criminal prosecution in case if accidents as their duties are connected with the movement of trains round the clock with high degree of,safety standards while ensuring punctuality – a peculiar situation which is not faced by the staff of any other Ministry/Department of Central Government,
  • The duties of Railway employees are strenuous as Indian Railways is an operational transportation network. Continuous stress and strain in the course of performing duties has been resulting in health hazards like Hyper-tension, diabetes, Ulcer, Cardiac problems leading to premature deaths, medical invalidation at a scale larger than Armed/para-military forces. It is reported that the number of deaths while on duty or in service or on leave/sick is nearly 10000 per annum. This alarming number of deaths is due to various difficult and unbearable working conditions.
  • Rail work force are expected to possess quick reflexes like that of armed forces for ensuring safe and efficient train operations.

The dedicated and devoted services of Railway employees is a real contributing factor for running this important transportation system efficiently without dislocation. The earnings generated by the Indian Railways due to continued efficient services of employees of all categories have not only resulted in substantial improvement of this massive transportation system but also made I.R., to meet the expenditure towards staff wages, allowances, pension liabilities etc., without depending upon Central Government, thus proved capable to absorb these commitments from its own resources.

The country as well as the Indian Railways should feel proud of its work force which has been working relentlessly for providing satisfactory services to the Customer. Healthy Industrial Relations have been built by pursuing mutual trust and co-operation among the staff of all categories as well as the management during the last 40 years. Not a single man-day has been lost on employees’ account during the last four decades period in the Railways due to disciplined work culture in built among the employees.

The New Pension Scheme has unfortunately resulted into disappointment and frustration among railway employees. This issue needs to be addressed for ensuring equal justice to all employees irrespective of their date of appointment whether they are pre 01/01/2004 or post 01/01/2004. Withdrawal of New Pension Scheme in Railways would contribute for preserving healthy industrial relations and contribute for improved efficiency and best operating ratio.

NFIR, therefore, requests the Railway Ministry (MS) to kindly impress upon the Finance, Ministry, DoPT and DPPW the need to take action for exempting Railway employees from National Pension System (NPS). Hon’ble MR may also be apprised of the communication sent by his predecessor to the then Finance Minister seeking exemption for Railway employees from NPS to facilitate his intervention early.

Yours faithfully,

(Dr. M. Raghavaiah)
General Secretary

Source: NFIR

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