Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Railways, do they flock together?

In Railways, do they flock together?

Is it that Senior Officers in Railways are protected by the system against public complaints? One of my complaints seems to somehow give the same feeling. I present this matter in the form of a long narration, which many may find boring, many may find worthless and many may find foolish. I would have no grudge against any such opinion. Let us all have the freedom to have our own view points, opinions, ways of living and thought process. But I know for sure that this was the only way that I could have acted.

I apologize once again for the narration being a bit too long and I take no responsibility for your wastage of time and energy, in case you find the narration worthless, boring or waste.

I am pursuing this case for the last about three years and yet justice seems to eludes me. Thus even after my best efforts, my complaints against two senior Railways officers does not seem even being heard and the way the enquiry officers and the other concerned officers have been behaving so far, it gives an impression of their acting as a cohort trying to save each other’s skin.

It might be an outstretched statement on my part but the case related with me being presented here might be symptomatic with the true facts as regards the way public complaints are treated there.

The actual incidence took place around three years ago, on 01/06/2010, when I had gone to the Gomti Nagar railway station in Lucknow (UP) to get my wife’s ticket refunded. At that time I was on study leave at IIM Lucknow. There an officer on the ticket counter was generally misbehaving with almost every person in the queue and he did the same with me, quite unnecessarily.

I got the official mobile number of the DRM of the North Eastern Railway, Lucknow from one of the railway officers there and talked to him on his official mobile phone through my mobile phone from the Gomti Nagar railway station itself, in the presence of many other persons, at about 1.30 to 2 PM.

I found it appropriate to present the facts of official misbehaviour to senior officers in writing. Hence I also wrote a complaint at the railway station itself and got it signed from five other persons who had also come there and having also got extremely upset with this officer’s behaviour, readily agreed to endorse my complaint letter.

I went to the DRM Office in Ashok Marg, Lucknow the same day (01/06/2010) at about 4 PM, met the DRM’s PA and since I had only one copy of the handwritten complaint, I requested the PA and through got a photocopy of the complaint letter so as to have it as a record.

I met the DRM, NER, Lucknow in his chamber exactly opposed to the PA’s room. His behaviour was not very appropriate. Instead of appreciating the fact that someone had come forward to bring facts about misbehaviour in the Railways, he looked at me as an unnecessary intruder. He also used a few words which were definitely unwarranted. In the end of the conversation he directed the petitioner to hand over the paper to the Senior DCM, NER sitting in an adjoining room.

I met the Senior DCM who took the paper from me and assured that some enquiry would take place in the complaint being made. Having come back from the DRM Office, I intimated on telephone a few of the complainants about this fact that I went and met the DRM, who expressed satisfaction over this.

When no enquiry took place in the matter for about month, I asked some information from the DRM, NER, Lucknow under the RTI Act through my letter dated 24/06/2010 (where I also mentioned the fact that he had handed over the written complaint to the senior DCM on the instructions of the DRM), then to the First Appellate Authority and finally to the Central Information Commission through whose intervention I could get some of the required information.

When nothing happened at the end of the DRM, NER, Lucknow I wrote letters to the Chairman, Railway Board, New Delhi on 14/08/2010, 25/09/2010 and 23/12/2010. In all these letters I made specific complaints about DRM, NER, Lucknow.

Later an officer in Lucknow contacted me saying that a complaint dated 25/09/2010 had been received from the Railway Board that he was entrusted enquiry.

Through my statement dated 09/12/2010 I clearly reiterated my complaints against the DRM and other senior officers of the NER, Lucknow Division particularly as regards two things- (a) His improper behaviour with me as a complaint (b) Their inaction on the complaint presented by me to them by hand. I also requested the Enquiry Officer not to take any further action against the subordinate officer but to deal strictly with the superior ones.

Since the Enquiry officer in the DRM Office, NER, Lucknow was clearly a subordinate to the DRM, hence despite my specific references, in his enquiry report he only found the junior officer at the Gomti Nagar railway station responsible, as would possibly be expected from any subordinate officer.

I kept pursuing the matter and later again after the intervention of the Central Information Commission, I got the information from the PIO of NER, Lucknow Division through his letter dated 12/07/2011 that as per the available records, my complaint dated 02/06/2010 is not available in the DRM, NER office.

Thus, for the first time I came to know that the complaint I had given first to DRM and later to Ms Senior DCM had actually not been brought on record and might have been thrown somewhere. Till date I had been thinking that no action was taken only out of inertia or lethargy but now a third dimension of disposing of the complaint letter had got added.

This action of such senior officers was a real a shock to me and I wrote to the Chairman, Railway Board once again on 25/07/2011 requesting him that I have enough evidence to establish the fact that I had met these senior officers in their office and hence I wanted an enquiry into the way firstly there was unwarranted brusque behaviour and later on the complaint letter was thrown away.

After this I got a letter dated 16/09/2011 from the GM (Vigilance), Gorakhpur asking me some information, evidences and witnesses as regards the complaint. The letter talked about the severity of malacious, veracious and unfounded allegations, in case it was found so.

I provided all these information through my letter dated 02/10/2011. In this letter I gave the name of six witnesses- five already named in the original complaint letter and a sixth person who had accompanied him to the DRM office.

I did not get any response for long and kept sending many reminder letters to GM (Vigilance), NER, Gorakhpur Zone but got no response from him.

Left with no option, I approached the office of the Railway Minister, Government of India through my letters Dated- 05/01/2012, 13/02/2012 and 20/03/2012. Even then, so far nothing has happened in this matter.

Then I sent letters dated 03/08/2012, 01/10/2012, 16/11/2012 and 23/01/2013 to the Prime Minister’s Office which were referred to the Railway Board and other officers but no action was done.

It is now that finally I have got two RTI replies from the Railway Board and the GM Office, Gorakhpur which bring other startling facts.

The RTI reply from Railway Board dated 15/04/2013 says that despite the Railway Board asking the GM, North Eastern Railways, Gorakhpur again and again (including as regards the letter dated 30/10/2012 sent by the Prime Minister’s Office) no action has been taken by the GM, NER. The letter dated 02/04/2013 sent by the Railway Board to the GM, North Eastern Railways, Gorakhpur says-“NER were advised for taking appropriate action in the matter and to intimate the representationist under intimation to the Board’s office. However no intimation in the matter is received in this office till date.” It also says-“NER is requested to advise of the action taken in the matter immediately along with a copy of the reply to the representationist.”

No such intimation has been made to me by the GM, Railways, NER so far, despite repeated specific directions of the Railway Board.

The RTI Reply from the NER, Gorakhpur brings other disturbing facts. The related Notesheets state that the matter was already enquired by the GM Vigilance in the NER. The Enquiry officer found that the railway officer at Gomti Nagar railway station had actually misbehaved with me and he was granted a minor penalty.

But as far as the issue related with the DRM and the Senior DCM being handed over a copy the complaint and not taking cognizance of it but possibly throwing it away was concerned, the Enquiry officer seems to have played a partisan role.

The enquiry report said-“Fact is that complaint letter dated 02/06/2010 is not available in the division.” It also said-“Regarding second allegation, it is gathered that there is no record in the division which shows or proves handing over of the complaint dated 02/06/2010 to Sr DCM, on the instruction of DRM/LJN on 02/06/2010 when Sri Thakur claimed to have met DRM. Further the complainant has not produced/sent any documentary proof of handing over/receiving of said complaint by Sr DCM or by any other officials.”

The Enquiry report stated-“Therefore, in the absence of any documentary evidence such type of allegation is difficult to prove on later date.” The enquiry officer said that since anyway the misbehaviour of the junior officer has been punished hence “the major issue of complaint” is over. The enquiry officer based his enquiry report on the statement of two officers- the Personal assistants of the DRM and the Senior DCM who “denied about receiving any such complaints”.

Interestingly the Enquiry officer himself agreed that-“Therefore Sri Thakur may have met DRM and handed over the said complaint dated 02/06/2010 to Sr DCM/LJN and other officials, but in the absence of any evidence, the second allegation is not substantiated.”

Hence the enquiry officer recommended for closure of the case, which was agreed upon by senior officers in NER.

It is at this stage that a very large number of issues arise-
(a) Why was the original complaint presented before the DRM and the Senior DCM not enquired into, till the time the matter was not finally taken up by on my complaint to the Railway Board?
(b) Why did the Railway Board not take into account the fact that the complaint was against the DRM and the Senior DCM and hence it should not be enquired by the same Division where these officers were posted?
(c) Why was the enquiry of the complaint handed over to a much junior officer than the DRM and the Senior DCM, against whom the complaints had also been made?
(d) Why did the Enquiry officer in Lucknow Division not comment on the fact that the complainant had made complaints against DRM and the Senior DCM as well and thus he was not competent to enquire into the matter?
(e) Why did the Enquiry officer not make any final comments about the DRM and the Senior DCM in the entire episode despite the petitioner making specific allegations against them in his statement to the enquiry officer dated 09/12/2010?
(f) Why did the Railway Board keep silent as regards complaints against the DRM and the Senior DCM till the time the complaint was actually made to the PMO and the PMO asked the Railway Board to make an enquiry?
(g) Was the Enquiry officer who finally made this enquiry actually senior in rank to the DRM and the Senior DCM or not?
(h) Why did the Enquiry officer keep the matter pending for long?
(i) Why did the Enquiry officer not take my statement during enquiry?
(j) When the Enquiry officer asked me to provide names of witnesses and other evidences and the petitioner provided these facts to the enquiry officer, why did he choose to ignore all these facts and why did he not think it proper to talk to any of the witnesses?
(k) Why did the Enquiry Officer or the GM, NER not provide the Enquiry report to me as was expected by the Railway Board?
(l) Why did the Enquiry Officer or the GM, NER not provide the Enquiry report even to Railway Board as was expected by the Board?
(m) Why was the basic fact not taken into consideration that I had presented this fact of having met and handed over the complaint to the DRM and Senior DCM as early as on 24/06/2010 through my RTI Application to the DRM Office?
(n) Why was the basic fact not taken into consideration that I had presented this fact of having met and handed over the complaint to the DRM and Senior DCM as early as on 14/08/2010 to the Chairman, Railway Board when nothing seemed to be happening in the DRM, NER, Lucknow office?
(o) Why was the basic fact that if a person was incessantly making a specific complaint against two senior officers, then there must be some truth and some reason in it, not taken into consideration while deciding this issue?
(p) When I could actually present a copy of the original hand-written complaint he had presented to the DRM and the Senior DCM, why was this fact ignored?
(q) If I was going on incessantly making the same complaint, either some specific motive should have been assigned for such complaint and suitable action initiated against him for vexatious and unfounded complaint as stated in the GM (Vigilance) letter dated 16/09/2011 should have been taken or my statement should have been admitted. But why did the enquiry officer choose a third option of concluding that I might have met the DRM etc but in the absence of any evidence, the allegations were not substantiated?
(r) Why did the concerned officers not give me any opportunity to produce the desired evidence?
(s) When the issue itself was as regarded throwing away of the complaint, how could the enquiry officer say that since there was no documentary evidence of the complaint being there in any records, hence it could be concluded that it was never actually handed over?
(t) Why were the DRM and the Senior DCM never asked/queried about their alleged role?

Presenting all the above facts, I have again sent a letter to the PMO and the Railway Ministry. The issue is not to get the officers punished. To be truthful, I have nothing personal against them. The issue is only as regards Justice. The issue is as regards the way transparency and accountability are in actual operation in our Governance.

The issue is also about the fact that while no one hesitated to take a strict action against the officer on the railway station because he was a junior officer and imposed a harsh action against him, the entire Railway bureaucracy seems to have flocked together dividing not to listen to my complaint, so that their senior officers don’t get punished for trifle charges- giving him benefit of doubt in all possible ways.

The only problem is that on the other hand, I am equally determined to get justice in this case because I can’t take the fact that while a subordinate officer got immediately punished, two senior officers are being saved at all levels, and for this purpose, even the basic norms and principles of judicious and just enquiry process seem being blatantly ignored.

I know this might be a still longer journey and there is also a great possibility of no action ever being taken on my complaint, on one of many grounds. 

But without thinking of the end result and without having anything personal against these officers, as a matter of fact, I will go on pursuing the issue till the time either it gets closed or it reaches its logical end.

Amitabh Thakur

1 comment:

  1. I always wonder that how does really our system work. Even, I had a very bad experience in train while traveling from Patna to Bangalore on 8/05/2013. Before starting the train I complaint that AC is not working but no one took care. I filed a complaint to all train conductors who were on duty while traveling the train but no one took the responsibility to inform technician before reaching the important stations in between.

    The worst experience I had with the Train conductor at Chennai station. He was not at giving the complaint book and started to use slang in Tamil.

    Though, I have booked the online complaint on, but I am not sure how to take this issue at next level?