Indian Railways Layoffs? Six reasons 3 lakh employees won’t be retired any time soon

Reports have emerged suggesting that Indian Railways are planning to lay off three lakh employees. These reports come soon after instructions given to various zonal heads to identify employees of above 55 years of age or have completed 30 years of service, thus qualifying for a pension.

According to the instructions seen by RailPost, zonal heads have been asked to prepare individual performance reports on staffers who fit the above-mentioned criteria. This will help identify underperforming staff.

As we have reported earlier, subpar employees on Indian Railways were likely to come under scrutiny after the Union Government had begun a similar exercise in other departments.

From the Indian Railways Yearbook 2016-17

At the end of 2018, the Indian Railways had approximately 12.7 lakh employees, according to the last published figures. Therefore, reports are essentially suggesting that IR will ask one in four employees to leave.

Here’s why we think this is unlikely to happen:

  1. It took 18 years for the number of employees to decline from 16.5 lakh to the present 12.7 lakh. A sudden decline to 9.7 lakhs is impossible with an organisation of the size and geographical spread of IR.
  2. The very nature of the performance review suggests that action on forced retirement has to be taken quickly. A review undertaken now will be of little use 2 years later, with several employees already having retired.
  3. A reduction as severe as this will invite severe blowback from the very powerful employee unions.
  4. Apart from the disruption that the unions themselves will create through protests and strikes, a cut as large as this may also create organisational chaos due to the inevitable redistribution of manpower, transfers, etc.
  5. With the outlook on global and Indian growth becoming increasingly pessimistic, the Union Government is unlikely to deliberately fan discontent. Nor are they going to worsen unemployment numbers by trimming flab in a critical and high profile organisation like IR.
  6. The government has forcibly retired a tiny fraction of employees, and those too in senior positions, from other departments where similar exercises were carried out.

As with such exercises in other departments, the government is likely planning to improve efficiencies and speed up execution. Government organisations are chronically afflicted by lethargy, inadequate skills for the given role, and questionable dealings.

This move is likely to also push other employees to improve their own performance so that they are not in the crosshairs when the next such review is undertaken.

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