Indian Railway Management Service(IRMS) has finally got its date of Birth. A new Group ‘A’ service has been born and will start getting its fresh members from the next year. As with anything new, there are lot of speculations around IRMS and I fear I may also end up speculating on the same. But since some people requested me to give insights on the future of IRMS, I have decided to present insider view of this new service which has been put on the block for civil services aspirants.

The fact that government has decided to conduct the exam through civil service in an organization where majority used to come from engineering exam shows a shift in mindset of the top management. It clearly wants to drive focus of Railways towards operations and steer it away from core engineering activity. There is also a speculation that some kind of privatization or unbundling of railways may be in offing. This cannot be ruled out as Railways undertakes multiple activities today which includes train operations, network expansion and production of rolling stock. Creation of IRMS sends a strong signal that network expansion and production of rolling stock are likely to see greater private participation as they are undertaking highly specialized activity where IRMS is unlikely to have much role at least in junior and middle level positions.

Thus, in all likelihood, IRMS will be in charge of running train operations and focus more on contract management and customer service. Fear of privatization is unwarranted because core operations of railways are very difficult to privatize and given the complications involved in operations of railways, it is unlikely that any government will go for privatization of train operations. However, definitely, railways is indicating that more and more private parties will be encouraged in commercial and maintenance activities. Thus, IRMS is assured of playing a pivotal role in changing the way railways work and I think as IRMS grows in number , the change will only fasten with time.

But why should an aspirant choose IRMS? IRMS will have a better visibility than any of the existing railway services. In a few years, it will be more popular than existing IRTS, IRPS, IRAS and engineering services and will have a substance of its own. IRMS will be a powerful service having total control over this giant system known as Railways. To make readers appreciate, the railways budget size is much bigger than many of the Indian states and only comparable to big states like Maharashtra. From passenger service to contract management, IRMS will have best of both the worlds. In a way, they will run a business like organization accompanied with the satisfaction for providing quality transportation service in both passenger and freight segment. From professional perspective, they will stake their claim to all the crucial decision making posts like DRM’s ,PHODs and GM’s. In a way, they will occupy all the key management positions in future and will have the last say on most of the matters.

The recruitment of IRMS has been decided to be done through civil services examination and it means that candidates with generalist mindset are going to enter into the service. Though the mode of recruitment has been hotly debated but since government has gone ahead with decision to do it through civil services, one may assume that government may have something in its mind while doing so. However, taking through civil services will have its own advantages. The candidates will be well connected with other all India services and other central services and likely to push many crucial expansion and transportation plans with the states more easily. The formulation of policies may become more stronger effective and quick. Internally also, IRMS will quickly become a force to reckon with. Initially, 150 candidates are being sought and the number is only likely to increase. The fact is that within next 5 years, IRMS will take over all the organized services within railways in terms of number and will start showing its influence on working. A community of such a big size is surely going to be influential and will command a lot of authority.

Till now, railways services were attached to various departments but IRMS will be above all the departments. It is unlikely to have any allegiance to any department and will always keep the holistic picture in mind. This has been rationale for the formation of IRMS and hopefully, it will deliver on it. However, the major challenge for IRMS will be that it does not have a very clear predecessor and thus, it will have a problem in seeking guidance in its initial days. Therefore, it is important that government lays down clear vision and mission for this new born service and device a high quality training plan for IRMS. In fact, IRMS should have 2 year training on the lines of a top class MBA with clear focus on Business development, infrastructure development and public private participation. The candidates should be given choice of two specializations during the training and that can be a criteria of their initial posting. It is important that service should set higher management standards and reflect the aspirations of a new India.

Thus, aspirants who are studying for civil services have something to cheer as one brand new all-in-one service is being offered which will provide experience second to none. Importantly, it is likely to overshadow many other civil services given the variety of work it offers and the reach it has through out the country. For Railways , this means starting of a period of long change to ensure that IRMS fits right into the government plan of streamlining railways and making it more oriented towards output than input. Although, I am not a pundit or a prophet but as things look like, IRMS has better prospects than any of the existing civil services available in the railways and will be surely a darling for those who aspire to be in civil services and contribute to the process of nation building.