The Railways has stopped an employment initiative launched in 2004 when it started giving jobs to children of employees in the lower tier in return for voluntary retirement and decided to approach the Supreme Court to determine if the scheme is Constitutionally tenable. The Liberalized Active Retirement Scheme for Guaranteed Jobs for Safety Workers (LARSGESS), which began in 2004 during the term of former railway minister Nitish Kumar, was suspended indefinitely last month following a Rail Ministry order.
What is VRS scheme?
There are 13 lakh employees in the Indian Railways and the ministry intends to get it down to 10 lakh by 2020. According to sources, zonal railway offices have been asked to compile a list of workers who will reach 55 years of age or complete 30 years of service by the first quarter of 2020. This is done to fab our weed and underperformers from the ministry. Those considered incompetent to remain on-duty will be given a premature retirement, they said.
According to the letter from the Railway Board to the zonal offices, “Zonal Railways is therefore required to furnish the service records of workers in an enclosed proforma who will cross the age of 55 years or who will complete 30 years of pensionable service, whichever occurs earlier, in the first quarter of 2020 from January to March 2020.”
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal earlier said that the national transporter must adopt technology and cut down the workforce to increase its profit. The Minister had also said that the government will study the profiles of the staff and take action again.
Recently, the Lok Sabha was told that the performance of more than 1.19 lakh Group-A and Group-B officers across government departments in relation to the premature retirement provision had been checked between 2014 and 2019.
Guidelines on Voluntary Retirement of Indian Railways Employees
For many years now, the Indian Railways have suffered from a low operating performance. The operating ratio remained above 95 per cent in the last three years of the previous Modi government, reaching 98.4 per cent during 2017-18. Some of the important points that you should know before you opt for VRS scheme are:
- With immediate effect, the Ministry of Railways issued orders introducing Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) for Loco Pilots (Drivers) and Trackmen (Gangmen) in the 50 to 57 year age group.
- The VRS called Safety Based Retirement Scheme would include Loco Pilots and Trackmen whose work has a vital effect on the safety of train operations and maintenance of track operations.
- The VRS follows deliberations on 12 and 13 July 2003 in the National Safety Workshop chaired by Railway Minister Shri Nitish Kumar.
- The VRS was framed with due consideration of physical fitness caused by advancing age and weakening reflexes of Loco Pilots and Trackmen to create a safety danger.
- The scheme would extend to all Loco Pilots and Trackmen who have operated the operation for 33 years. The pension plan must be on a voluntary basis. There is no pressure on the Administration’s part.
- The ward of qualifying Loco Pilots and Trackmen will be listed in the lowest recruitment grade of the respective division from which the employee is seeking qualification for appointment.
- VRS applications are viewed once a year. The cut-off date is 30 June of a year. From that date, all terms of appointment for the ward of these retirees will be decided.
- Loco Pilots are solely responsible for train operation, and Trackmen are responsible for proper track maintenance. The two groups operate in situations where exhaustion sets in faster than workers working indoors or inside station limits, or in depots and workshops.
- The VRS, which excludes Shunters, offers jobs to an eligible ward of the employee whose application for retirement is approved under the scheme.
- Under the program, the employee requesting VRS would not be qualified for a weightage against qualifying service. Under the scheme the wards named would not be able to alter the rank, except under the current laws.
Who will be eligible for the VRS scheme?
The railway worker who withdraws by giving notice to the Government or who is dismissed by giving him notice or payment and compensation in lieu of such notice in accordance with the terms and conditions of his service may be granted suo-moto by the authority competent to grant leave, cash equivalent of the leave salary in respect of the Average Pay at his credit, subject to a maximum of 240 days.
In the second phase of the scheme, employees with less than 33 years of qualifying service would be considered.
Terms & Conditions of VRS scheme Indian Railways
- By this scheme, if any railway employee takes retirement under Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) after the age of 57 years then Indian Railway will give a permanent job to his/her one son/daughter.
- The cash equivalent shall be equal to the leave wage as eligible for leave on average pay and/or equal to the leave wage as eligible for half time leave plus the dearness benefit available for that leave wage for the first 240 days, at the rates in place on the date on which the Railway servant so withdraws or retires from work.
- In case a disabled Railway servant reconsiders his decision and withdraws the notice for voluntary retirement, his case shall be dealt with under the provisions of Section 47 of PWD Act, 1995. If however, in spite of being so advised, such Government servant still wishes to take voluntary retirement, the request may be processed as per applicable rule.
- Whenever a Railway servant seeks voluntary retirement citing medical grounds, or when the said notice has been submitted due to a disability, the administrative authorities shall examine as to whether the case is covered under Section 47 of PWD Act, 1995. In case the provisions are applicable, the Railway servant shall be advised that he/she has the option of continuing in service with the same pay scale and service benefits.
Though revenue of Indian Railways has risen for the past several years, the staff expenses and allocation to a pension fund account for 66 per cent of Railways’ expenditure. The national transporter’s expenditure on staff is very high and it kept increasing with every Pay Commission revision.