Don’t mess with VIPs in India or you might get suspended from your job. Such was the case for two railway officials, Swapnil Garg and AK Mal, at the Lucknow railway station who were suspended when they made Mallikarjun Kharge, the Union Minister of Railways of the Republic of India, walk a small distance. God forbid.
His arrival typically warrants plenty of notice, with the station requiring advance planning to manage traffic, but since his program was received on short notice, his railway carriage was not placed right at the VIP entrance. As a result, he had to…walk to it.
The “why” and “how” of the suspension has some reeling, however. According to a railway official, preparing the entire station for a VIP “can’t be done at short notice,” while the Railway Officers’ Association has cited the two suspended men’s good service record as evidence that this might be nothing more than an abuse of power.
Shubhranshu, the general secretary of the association, wrote to the minister stating, “Such action in a democratic country reminds us of a totalitarian state.” He went on the ask for clarification from Kharge concerning his involvement with the suspension. Beyond this, the individual in charge of disciplining the men, who is the division railway manager of Northern Railways, does not have the authority to suspend employees.
The suspension was lifted after 24 hours, but the fallout might be more than just a simple acknowledgement of a misunderstanding. The railway association went on record as stating, “This is an unprecedented step by an unauthorized person and that too through verbal…orders amount[s] to gross abuse of power and overstepping of authority.”
Moral of the story: Don’t mess with the railway association in India.