PESHAWAR: Many employees of the Pakistan Railways are sceptical about the decision to do away with the Vigilance Department as they consider the move a compromise on the internal accountability mechanism.
They viewed the decision as an attempt to end the check on the authority of higher officers, other wrongdoings and internal accountability within the railways.
Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad had announced abolishing the Vigilance Department at a press conference at the Pakistan Railways headquarters a few days ago.
However, he did not give any reason for abolishing the department.
Former military ruler General (R) Pervez Musharraf had first introduced the Military Vigilance Department in the Railways in 2002.
The department had helped increase the profit and stopped other wrongdoings, but it was abolished in 2007. Interestingly, Sheikh Rasheed was the Railways minister when the Vigilance Department was abolished.
But the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led-federal government had then set up a civil Vigilance Department in 2012 and it had been functional since then.
Railways officials from other departments including commercial, control, telecom, electric and others were appointed in the Vigilance Department.
The department was empowered to check any wrongdoing and also the facilities in trains and department including tracing and recovering department’s land, checking leases and other property extended on rent, procurements, fresh recruitment, de-relaxation of duty, any missing facility.
Pleading anonymity, an official at the Vigilance Department, Peshawar Railways Division, said the department was a check on the authority of high officers of Pakistan Railways.
He said the Vigilance Department helped reduce the malpractices and recover millions of rupees on account of railways land leased or rented out for commercial purposes, tickets, reclaimed hundreds of acres of railways land from land grabbers, traced railways land encroached upon or illegally occupied, ensured merit to some extent in fresh recruitment, made it sue that employees are on duty, missing facilities and other wrongdoings in the department.
Sharing some details, the official said the Vigilance Department had identified over 178 acres of Railways land in Peshawar Division in 2017 which was missing in the department’s record.
He said the Vigilance Department had also recovered Rs1417,141 on account of tickets. “We check the passengers to see if they possess tickets and then issue tickets to ticketless passengers,” he elaborated.
The official said the Vigilance Department also traced and indicated Rs44667,711 amount outstanding on account of lease, rents and other accounts.
“We have recovered Rs2.6 million from the contractor who had taken on lease the Railways property in Nauthia locality in Peshawar. He was unwilling to renew his lease since long,” he added.
He said the Vigilance Department also checked fresh recruitment to ensure merit. “Now the railways is going to recruit 10,000 new employees and it seemed that Vigilance Department is being abolished to pay the way for recruiting near and dear ones as there would be no authority to check the process,” he maintained.
Another official said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was voted on the slogan of accountability and merit, but the decision of abolishing the Vigilance Department was contrary to its claims.
He said though the vigilant vigilance staff would be adjusted in other departments, it would be difficult for them to continue performing duty as the senior officials against whom they had filed complaints about misuse of authority would victimise them.
Other officials termed the abolition of Vigilance Department a conspiracy as senior officials would do whatever they want without any fear of being held accountable.
Spokeswoman for Pakistan Railways, Qurratul Ain said it was being abolished because it has become irrelevant and was resulting in overlapping of the authority.
She said that annual audit of the Railways was carried out and now in presence of National Accountability Bureau and other anti-graft bodies there was no need for it. She said recruitment in the department was carried out through the Pakistan Testing Service.
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