Thursday, October 8, 2015

NAGPUR: A controversy over the railway ministry's quixotic move to close down its prestigious British-era graduate institute for railway mechanical engineers is fast gathering momentum.

The move has apparently been 'tunneled' through the railway minister by a Railway Board member and is becoming a source of embarrassment for the ministry now, in the backdrop of NDA government's promise to develop major educational hubs in poll-bound Bihar.

In a letter to railway minister Suresh Prabhu, a copy of which is in TOI's possession, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has expressed surprise at the move at a juncture when the "catch-them-young" policy was being pursued by organizations.

"Given its rich tradition of excellence, the Indian Railway Institute of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Jamalpur should be upgraded as a railway university," says Kumar in his letter.

The IRIMEE is one of the six centralized training institutes of Indian Railways functioning for training of officers. It is one of the oldest institutes of this country and its history dates back to year 1888 when it was established as a technical school.

Sources say, the Railway Board member Pradeep Kumar wrote to Union Public Services Commission secretary Ashim Khurana on August 31, asking him to "discontinue the recruitment of candidates for induction into the Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineers through the Special Class Railway Apprentice examination".

Though the letter says the decision has the "approval of the railway minister", railway ministry sources say the move is being pushed through a "secretive" route without seeking approval of the cabinet and Parliament and apparently the minister has been kept in the dark.

It is well-known that railway engineers graduating from the prestigious Jamalpur institute have a distinct benefit over other services, apart from being bright young candidates selected through a very highly competitive entrance.

Many of them are in fact students who have migrated from IITs and other reputed engineering colleges; such is the high esteem in which the college is held. Jamalpur engineers have consistently reached highest positions in the railway system and have done exceedingly well in the outside world too.

Sources say, an innocuous reference from UPSC to re-schedule the next SCRA entrance exam was made use of by a section of the railway ministry to kill an educational institute which has brought laurels to the railways for almost a century now.

The issue is now snowballing into a major cause for resentment within the railway cadres and may well become a major source of embarrassment for the railways.

The training of mechanical engineers for Indian Railways commenced in the year 1927. It presently conducts training courses for in-service mechanical officers and supervisors and appreciation courses in mechanical engineering for officers of other disciplines in Indian Railways.

It also conducts four-year training of SCRA, who are selected by UPSC through SCRA examination and after successful completion of training resulting in award of degree in mechanical engineering, are absorbed as Group A officers in mechanical engineering department of Indian Railways.

However, the Railway Board has clarified that there is no decision to close the IRIMEE at Jamalpur. IRIMEE shall continue as a centralised training institute of the ministry devoted to training mechanical engineers and other officers of the Indian Railways.

However, sources say even if the IRIMEE is not closed, the SCRA scheme will be closed.

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