The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has returned Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge’s recommendation of appointing South Western Railway general manager A.K. Mittal as chairman of the Railway Board, according to highly placed sources.

The post has been lying vacant for over three months now, and under the additional charge of Member, Mechanical, Arunendra Kumar.

The sources said the PMO returned the proposal with a request to change the norms for the selection of chairman. This was apparently done after one of the affected candidates made a representation.

Some railway officers, however, questioned the move to change the norms after vacancy was caused. They argued criteria could be revised prior to the vacancy.

Norms could be changed prospectively only, the officers claimed. The present requirement for the post is one should have served as a zonal general manager with two-year residual service.

The CVC has so far cleared four names, of which Mr. Mittal has two years of service to go.

The other names cleared are that of Kolkata Metro general manager Radhey Shyam, Northern Railway general manager V.K. Gupta and Mr. Arunendra Kumar, whose residual tenure is only 18 months and, hence, does not automatically qualify for the post.

Mr. Mittal’s name has been opposed on the ground that he belongs to the stores officers’ cadre and not fit for the post.

Railway officers, however, countered this, saying the post of chairman was open to all cadres and not to any specific group of officers.

Should he succeed, Mr. Mittal would be the first stores officer to become the chairman.

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