New Delhi: The country’s largest and one of the oldest employers has changed the official designation of its lakhs of footsoldiers. The remnants of its colonial past has finally been abolished. 

This year onwards, while the Jamadars in the Railways are now been called Assistants, the Safaiwalas are designated to be called housekeeping assistants. Differentiated only by departments, the dhobis (Wash Boys), chowkidars, hamals, bhistys, cleaners, khalasis, peons, cooks and waiters (Catering) or even porters are all now assistants.

After internal deliberations and consultations with recognised workers’ unions according to The Indian Express, this decision was taken and a notification was circulated last month by the Railway Board.

Even though specific jobs have evolved over  time, officials found out while preparing the list that some designations were as old as the organisation that was founded in 1853. Now, the farrash, lifter, finder, record sorter, sandeshwahak/messenger are general assistants to the Railways.

“The revision in designation…will not entail change in the existing duties and responsibilities, appointment procedure, pay level, eligibility conditions prescribed…,” states the notification.

“There was dissatisfaction among workers. Many felt that some of these designations were demeaning in this day and age, while many were based on jobs that do not even exist… This is about dignity,” said Shiv Gopal Mishra, Secretary General, All Indian Railwaymen’s Federation, the largest union in the service.

Acccording to Railway Board officials, this “colonial hangover” of the designations of these Group D (now Level 1) posts were meant in the past to align with the jobs involved.

“In any case, the entry-level pay bands of these profiles had been merged into a single band in the Sixth Pay Commission, which was again termed Level 1 in the Seventh Pay Commission. Workers had been demanding uniformity in designations,” said a Railway Board official.

Only the departments of track maintenance and safety still identify the same designations with the specific nature of the jobs. While the Trolleyman is Assistant (Trolley Operating), Pointsman remains Pointsman.