Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No end to rail woes

When trains ply irrespective of days and nights, no railway gates or gatemen guard the 16,976 level crossings. Such incidents become news only when there are casualities. Sometimes trains ply on wrong tracks, sometimes with no proper signals and sometimes through faulty lines. Except railway officials, none would have any knowledge about it. Like vehicles plying on roads, the train driver alone cannot be held responsible for averting accidents. It needs the unified act of loco pilots, guardsman, station masters and gate keepers. Lack of unity among them pave way for accidents in majority of cases.

As a first measure to avert accidents, the railway safety commission had repeatedly asked appointment of gatemen by fixing gates at unmanned level crossings. Without paying heed to such needs, every year the railways are trying to cut short the number of staff. There are 14,06,000 employees working in the railways having 63,327 km of rail line. In China there are 20, 67,000 employees working for 63,637 km line. The railway is not able to utilize the existing resources too.

The long queues at ticket counters during morning and evening time is a common sight. Not able to purchase tickets even after the train reaches the stations, travelers are forced to board ticketless. Checking staffs book and fine them. There are specified targets to be met for each checking staff like Rs 50,000, Rs 37,000 or Rs 34,000. One who meets the target would be given special gifts. Recently railways punished a checking staff who failed to meet the target. But the Central Administrative Tribunal quashed the order asking under what basis the target was fixed?

As per the advise of management experts in railways, the number of staffs had been pruned so as to increase the profit.The railway safety fund was formed in 2001 to set up manned level crossings and appoint gatemen. But the railways had not spent the fund being given by the centre as Rs 2316 crore was lying unused for security measures. In its report, the CAG came down heavily against the railways for its failure in utilising the security fund.
Gatemen given extra work of Pointsman

When the gateman of Kozhikode Thekkodi level crossing, near the Thikkodi station, was given additional charge of pointsman, the railway was able to cut short an employee. But it also guaranteed a shortage in the security of travelers.

The gatemen here, after closing the gate, had to run all the way to the station, 400 meters away, to give signal to the train. After the train passes he has to run back to open the gate. It is the job of pointsman, sweeper-cum-porter. The pointsman who worked here was transferred.

The demand to fix duty hours of gatemen to 7 hours has been raised for years. For special class gates the working hours is for 8 hours. The same is being implemented in the special class of Thiruvananthapuram division but not in Palakkad division. When the working time is fixed at 8 hours, the railway would have to appoint 88 new gatesmen. Without appointing pointsman in more than 100 vacancies, the railway is giving extra work to gates man

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