Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Plight of loco pilots

Have anyone heard about authorities demanding death certificate when an employee failed to attend duty due to his father's death. A loco pilot recently had such a misfortune. The father of a loco pilot, having more than 23 years of service in the Salem division, died when he returned from duty. The loco pilot immediately called the office to intimate the death news. When he reached the office after a week, completing all rituals, to his astonishment he found that he was marked absent in the attendance register. When he enquired about this, his head asked him to produce a death certificate. There are strict orders from the divisional manager not to grant leave to loco pilots. So the head was helpless.

There are 14,000 vacancies of loco pilots across the country. The railway is now running services burdening the existing staff with over work. Two months back when relatives of a loco pilot, running in Palakkad division, informed about his father's death to the division, the division officer did not pass on the death news to the loco pilot as they knew that if he returns from duty, there would not be anyone to operate the train. He came to know about the death news of his father only after he returned from duty. When he reached home after 10 hrs of journey all rituals were completed.

When loco pilots, who were forced to do duty for continuous 6 nights in a week, doze off for a minute, it results in major disasters. The Railway security commissioner had given instructions that no loco pilot would be given duty continuously for 2 days. Most of the accidents happen between 2 am and 6 am. Railway Research Development and Standards organization had recommended duty change between 2 am and 6 am. If this recommendation is implemented, then loco pilots must be appointed in a war footing. When summer and winter special trains begin service, loco pilots are forced to attend duty fearing disciplinary action.

The cabin where loco pilot's work is also in a pitiable state. Many of the cabins do not have proper seat. The railways had not made any attempt to provide adequate drinking water and toilet facilities.

No leaves are allowed even for headaches or fever. The ailment would be examined by railway doctors and they have to continue with their work. Railway doctors are strictly instructed not to grant leave. The Southern Railway has vacancies for 512 posts. As per the rule of the Railway, 30 % of loco pilots must be kept in reserve and the rest 70% be given duty. But as 20 % of posts are lying vacant the whole of them are forced to do duties.

There is another rule which states that every three years the loco pilots must renew their competency certificate after a refresher course. Earlier, the competency certificates were sent regularly after 2 years and 9 months but it is not regular. As driving without licence, many are operating trains without competency certificates. The employees in the lower strata are blamed for any accidents.

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