Saturday, August 24, 2013

Race for top railway job becomes messier

Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 23, 2013
The race for the top railway post has become messier, with acting chairman Railway Board (CRB), Arunendra Kumar having reopened a ten year old vigilance case against Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) general manager RS Virdhi and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) recommending a minor penalty charge-sheet against him.

Being the senior-most among officials fulfilling the dual criteria of having one year's experience as an open line general manager and having a residual service of more than two years, Virdhi was being considered as a top contender for the top railway post.
If Virdhi is served a charge-sheet, the prospects of having a minority Sikh candidate assuming charge as the CRB or even as a Railway Board member will become remote.
Pleading that allegations against him were being leveled with "malafide intents", Virdhi arrived in New Delhi on Friday for a meeting with Railways minister Mallikarjun Kharge.
The CVC's recommendation is seen as being violative of para 4.4 (g) of the CVC's vigilance manual, which says that "during the course of preliminary enquiry, the public servant concerned may be given an opportunity to say what he may have to say about the allegations against him".
Even as a charge-sheet has been recommended against him, the Railways have so far not issued any questionnaire to Virdhi in the case.
In its communication of August 21, the Commission recommended charge-sheets against two railway officers for their alleged involvement in the 2003 cases relating to the purchase of perfume dispensers - used for trials in the 1st AC class in premier trains including Rajdhanis.
These officers are DC Sharma (then Director, Coaching) and RS Virdhi (then the Executive Director, Coaching).
Significantly, in its earlier reports, both the CVC and the CBI had absolved railway officials of any involvement in the case, finding no case of irregularity or criminality. 
In the first instance, the departmental vigilance complaint recommended an inquiry only against Sharma. Virdhi's name was not mentioned in the initial complaint.
The Railways forwarded a second complaint to the CVC on June 20 and Virdhi's role was sought to be investigated by including his name at the insistence of Kumar, who was then functioning as Member (Mechanical), railway board sources said.
In this complaint, then CRB Vinay Mittal is understood to have expressed his written disagreement to Kumar's views.


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