Career in Indian Railways

Since the first flower and tilak-bedecked steam engine was flagged off amidst great fanfare from Boribandar in Mumbai on its maiden 34 km voyage to Thane on 16 April, 1853, the Indian Railways have come a long way. Covering a vast distance of 63,327 km, it is today Asia’s largest and the world’s second largest railway network. It is rightly considered the ‘lifeline’ of India since it still remains the principal mode of transport, having absorbed new advances in railway technology to keep pace with the ever-increasing demands of moving large volumes of passenger land freight traffic. No wonder, Indian Railways have emerged as the largest public sector undertaking in the country with an investment of Rs.37,905 crore for  2009 - 2010

Indian Railways employ over 1.6 million –much more than the combined strength of the Indian Army, Navy and Air force put together! About 10,000 personnel are recruited each year into four categories-Groups A, B, C and D. While some of these jobs entail a minimum qualification of matriculation (Class X), others require a degree in Humanities, Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, etc. The range of employees thus includes officers, engineers, financial experts, technicians, office clerks and unskilled labour. Even computer scientists can find a foothold in this service, as Indian Railways are increasingly using computers for ticketing and processing information in various spheres. There are ample job opportunities for both young men and women with attractive emoluments, perks and retirement benefits, Indian Railways, virtually a mini society in itself-considering the plethora of jobs it offers, also provide several avenues for self-employment by sanctioning licenses for running  bookstalls, canteens, platform-vending facilities f various types, supply of stores and works contracts

Whereas in western countries, switching of jobs is a routine matter, for most of us in India the first job-be it in a government or in a private organization, still remains a lifelong commitment. Before you make your choice, it is vital to know as much as possible about the organization you wish to join. This article attempts to do just that. So go ahead….soak it all in.

Indian Railways, which is fully owned and managed by the Central Government, has the onerous task of catering to the multiple needs of a large population and a developing economy. Added to this, it has to overcome the various geographical constraints to link up remote places in the country. In order to provide proper coordination and control, Indian Railways exhibit a distinct structural mechanism and management style.

Some Key Statistics
The IR network has a route length of 63,465 km and a total track length of 1,08,920 km. While most of the rail traffic is carried on what is known as Broad Gauge (1667 mm), there are also Metre Gauge (1000 mm) and Narrow Gauge (762mm) and (610 mm) tracks as well. The IR have decided to adopt a unigauge policy, and plan to convert all metre and narrow gauge tracks to BG. Currently 63.2% of the total route length is already in broad gauge, handling 95% of the freight output and 88.7% of the passenger output.
28 states and 1 Union Territory have a railway network with routes varying in length from 1 km to 8,944 km – only Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have no railway lines. Also, 6480 million passengers traveled by train and 730 million tonnes of freight was carried by the Indian Railways. Over one per cent of the population travels by train daily. Earnings from passenger traffic formed 26.9 per cent of the gross earnings of the Indian Railways. Suburban passengers, who constitute 62 per cent of the total passengers, account for only 11.7 per cent of the passenger revenue because of heavily discounted monthly season tickets. While the freight revenue amounted to 68.1 per cent, the remaining 5 per cent of the earnings were from parcels and other services.

Railway employees are divided into four groups: Group A, B, C and D. Management personnel (Group A & B, i.e. gazetted posts) make up 0.85% of the strength, while Group C and D comprise 55.09% and 44.06% respectively of the total work force. Of the employees in Group C & D, 5.13 lakh (31.40 %) are workshop employees and artisans and 11.22 lakh (68.60%) form other categories including running staff (Drivers, Shunters, Assistant Drivers, Firemen, Guards, etc.). The Railway protection Force and special Force totaled 63,906 personnel. With the technological changes taking place at a rapid pace in the last three decades the railways have been reducing the number of Group D staff who are predominantly unskilled labour and correspondingly there has been a gradual increase in the number of skilled staff belonging to Group C. This trend will continue and in the next ten years there will be very few unskilled personnel in the IR.

The Railway Organization
When compared to other modes of transportation, IR have a distinct unity of organization since it is owned and worked by a single agency with organized preventive maintenance, unitary control system and a strict code of operation for all operators across the board. The transportation of goods and passengers is the end product of the railway system and a large number of departments coordinate with each other in this endeavor. For administrative convenience there is well-defined functional and territorial division in the IR. There is a three-tier central management comprising of Railway Board, Zone and Division.

Other Areas of Activities
There are a number of other activities conducted by the Indian Railways besides the ones already described. These activities fall, under six major heads:

1.      Production Units

2.      Research

3.      Railway Electrification

4.      Human Resources Development

5.      consultancy

6.      Specialized Services.


World over the Railway Organizations have common labour market scenario. The requirement of skills of the Railwaymen and their career progression have great similarities with the advantage that most of the Railway employees could be acceptable in any Railway Organization world over. There is a strong sense of departmentalism is the Railway hierarchy. Except at the level of Divisional Railway Manager and Zonal general Manager, which is roughly equal to 4 or 5 years of the career, the IR officers operate in nearly water tight compartments. Traditionally this has been the atmosphere in most of the World Railway Organizations. The objectives of the Railway Organization have continued to be achieved by synchronization of the excellence of the teams of the various disciplines. This arrangement has disallowed the predominance of certain skills, expertise and knowledge of a group of personnel over others. Therefore, the new entrants in the various disciplines feel at home right from the beginning and their movement up the ladder of their career  is virtually the same for everybody. The career progression is predictable and there is a sense of security and assurance, which basically are the reasons for anybody joining the Government service.

Railwaymen have a strong sense of loyalty maybe like the personnel of Armed Services. In India there have been generations in the Army and similar is the case in the Railways. Being born and brought up in Railway colonies it is but natural for the children of Railway persons to appreciate the atmosphere of brotherhood which is quite evident in most of the places. Railway administration has been keeping alive the tradition to give preference to the wards of Railway employees at the time of recruitment. This has won the loyalty of the Railway employees. Except in the case of certain categories of group A engineering officers, there are hardly cases of Railway persons leaving their jobs for better opportunities elsewhere. The turn over is very low and this feature is again common with the foreign Railway Organizations. Railway employment is virtually a life long employment contract.

The officers and staff of Indian Railways are recruited according to their group classification. The gazetted positions comprise all Group A posts and Group B posts. These form the officer cadres which perform executive functions. The Union Public Service Commission is the recruiting agency for the gazette ranks. While Group C forms the skilled labour, clerical staff and supervisors, Group D is characterized by the unskilled/semi-skilled labour.

Group A Services
Group A services of the Indian Railways as follows:

1.      Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS)

2.      Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS)

3.      Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS)

4.      Railway Protection Force (RPF)

5.      Indian Railway Service of Engineers (IRSE)

6.      Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers(IRSME)

7.      Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers(IRSEE)

8.      Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers (IRSSE)

9.      Indian Railway Stores Service (IRSS)

10. Indian Railways Medical Service (IRMS).

Recruitment to these services is done by the Union Public service Commission every year. However, this recruitment is not done exclusively for the Indian Railways, The process is clubbed with the recruitment of Group A services of other Central Government Organizations. The selection for the first four services is done as a part of the Civil services Examination popularly known a IAS and Allied services. Selection for the service from numbers 5 to 9 is held by the UPSC as part of the Engineering Services Examination. The Selection for IRMS is held by the UPSC together with the medical services of other central government organizations.

Special class Railway Apprentices Examination
A separate examination is conducted by the UPSC for the recruitment of junior officers in the service of Technical Engineers, called the Special Class Railway Apprentices. These candidates are selected at the pre-graduate level (10 +2 with Maths and Physics). After selection they are trained by the Railways and paid a stipend. Candidates appear for an examination conducted in two parts:

Part I : Consists of a written examination of a total of 700 marks; 100 marks in each of the seven subjects including English, General Knowledge, Physics, Chemistry, Math I, Math II and Psychological Test.

Part II: Comprises a personality test, with a maximum of 200 marks.

The questions are approximately of intermediate level. All selected candidates have to execute a bond/agreement to serve in the Indian Railways on completion of their training, failing which they have to refund the amount paid to them.

The apprentices have to undergo practical and theoretical training for four years. The training is given in railway workshops in four periods of one year each, six months in a workshop being followed by six months in the Indian Railway Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Jamalpur. At the end of each session, an examination has to be passed. After successful completion of training, they are appointed as assistant mechanical engineers.

Group C Personnel
Group C staff constitutes about 54% of the total strength of about 16.5 lakh manpower and they are the backbone of the Indian Railways. Skilled technicians, technical, and non-technical supervisors, drivers, station masters. Booking clerks, office staff, teachers, Para-medical personnel, etc.from this group.

Recruitment for Group C posts in Railways is done through:

      i) direct recruitment


      iii) transfer from other government offices.

The Staff Selection Commission of UPSC, which deals with the recruitment of Group C staff of all Central Govt. agencies, recruits the staff for Railway Board Secretariat also. Recruitment for the rest of the Indian Railways is done by the Railway Recruitment Boards for the various Zonal Railways, Production Units and other railway centers.

Pattern of written test
Written tests for the selection of candidates for all Group C categories follow one basic pattern. In 2 hours time, about 160-175 multiple choice objective type questions are asked. The standard questions vary according to the levels-Metric, 10+2, Graduate, Diploma, and Degree, as per the minimum qualification required. For non-technical posts the questions are equally divided into 4 groups:

i)           General English,

ii)          Arithmetic,

iii)         General Knowledge, and

iv)         General Intelligence.

For technical posts, besides the above, a fifth set of questions is added to test the requisite technical, specialized aptitude of the candidate.

Technical skill test
For the posts of typists and stenographers, a practical test is held to judge the speed and accuracy of the candidate. After passing the skill test, the candidate is required to appear in the interview.

Psychological test
While recruiting Assistant Engine Drivers and assistant Station Masters, the Railways make the candidates pass a psychological test conducted by their own specialists of the Research, Designs and standardization Organization (RDSO), Lucknow, which judges the level of mental stability and safety consciousness of the candidates.

Approximately equal to two and a half times the number of vacancies, the candidates are called for the interview as per the merit in the written examination. Wherever a skill or psychological test is to be held, the number of candidates declared passed in the written test may be five times the number of vacancies.

I hope now you have got a fair idea as to how to go about entering Railway Service. Good Luck to your quest.

Patrick Braggs Cap Cell coordinator and Nodal officer.

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