Friday, November 15, 2013



REDUNDANCY OF SR 4.32(1)

             AILRSA has been relentlessly waging struggles against the unfair practice of forcing the engine crew to do coupling/uncoupling. It is more the intention of the railway administration to marginalize the Loco Running Staff, reflected by the inequitable and forceful implementation of the SR 4.32(1) beyond its rational objective, than the existence of the rule or any safety thoughts that resulted in enforcing the arbitrary practice.
Railway administration has always tried, with the intention to embarrass the Loco Running Staff, to extent the scope of the rule and make arbitrary corrections to the disadvantage of the staff, impose extra burden on the engine crew by interpreting the rule based on policy of expedience etc. AILRSA, bound by the interest of improving the condition of the Loco Running Staff in harmony with the spirit of equity, the sense of class-consciousness and fraternal preferences, has always responded effectively against such outrageous actions on the part of the railway administration and tried to expose the unfairness in the actions. On all such occasions, the administration has followed an excessively offensive and harsh approach towards the Loco Running Staff and has given unilateral punishments to silent our protests with out showing any sense of inquiry or reform. Despite facing all these offensive and oppressive approach AILRSA has never let the issue go in oblivion and continued to pursue the issue with endurance.
The principled stand followed by AILRSA all these time has been that, considering the job attributes and the responsibilities imposed on the engine crew to run the trains punctually and safely with zero tolerance to mistakes, we deserve a better working condition. Forcing the engine crew to do the ancillary works like coupling/uncoupling etc is not in the good interest of ensuring the condition. Moreover, the objective of SR 4.32(1) is to ensure smooth functioning of train service during the time of certain unforeseen or unusual situations and misusing the rule to make the engine crew to do coupling/uncoupling on regular basis is against the intention of GR 4.32. Hence, SR 4.32(1) need to be repealed duly taking into account its contentious nature, negative contribution to industrial peace, unlimited scope for misinterpretation, irrelevance as a safety rule, the general opinion formed in this regard including the demand from the recognized union etc also.  AILRSA also maintained that until such time the rule is repealed the provision of the third Para of SR 4.32(1) should be implemented in the right perspective.
    The role of SR 4.32(1) in aggravating the situation to the extent of causing disruption to the train service at NCJ depot of TVC division once again proved the obstructive nature of the rule. Even though Loco Running Staff was never a party to the dispute that led to the incident, the deliberate attempt to drag them into the issue as against their willingness succeeded only because of the existence of the rule.          
            In the wake of this incident a delegation of AILRSA consisting of Com.M.M.Roly, Com.R.Murali, Com.C.S.Kishore, met the General Manager and other  Zonal Authorities on 11.10.2013 and tried to convince them the facts. A memorandum justifying the necessity to repeal SR 4.32(1) has also been submitted during the meeting.
The text of the memorandum is reproduced below:


To
The General  Manager,
Sothern Railway,
Chennai.

Respected sir,

       Sub:  SR 4.32- impact on industrial peace - necessity to repeal it –reg.

In the wake of the recent incident at NCJ of TVC division which caused to disrupt the  train service we would like to represent that the  loco running staff was unwarrantedly and involuntarily dragged into the issue as a part of the vested interest and pre meditated plan of a section of employees under the auspice of the SRMU.  Even though the loco running staff was never a party to the issue the people with the vested interest could achieve their unfair intention because of the provision of SR 4.32.
SR 4.32 has remained a contentious issue for long causing friction between the staff and giving undue advantage to some who exploit it to advance their nefarious designs and to disturb the industrial peace.  In the past also there were many such incidents which resulted in adversely affecting the normal functioning of the railway.  Since it was always the Loco running staff who had constantly been harassed on account of this we suggest that the relevance of SR 4.32 need to be reviewed objectively.  In this regard we would like to present the following points to establish the redundancy of the existence of SR 4.32.
1.      The provision of SR 4.32 was incorporated three decades before during the period of steam traction to detach/attach the loco for loco purpose likewatering etc only. For this purpose a group D staff was available in the  locos   designated as third fireman to do the coupling and uncoupling of steam loco to the formation and other related work and hence the provision of SR 4.32.  In the present context with diesel and AC traction, having only LP and ALP (both belonging to class III) and with class IV employee separated from the loco motive the continuance of the rule does not represent any original intention.
2.      There are occasions where attaching / detaching of loco become necessary in the block section between the stations like during sending relief engine, banking engine, during engine failures, detaching of loco in emergency, during train parting etc. When the rule was amended in 1992 we had represented and the administration clarified that the intention of the amendment was only to ensure coupling/uncoupling during the situations mentioned above where shunting staff cannot be practically provided.

3.      The sub rule (b) of the GR 4.32 requires the engine crew to ensure that the coupling between the engine and the train is properly secured.  Forcing the engine crew to physically do the coupling and uncoupling is never the objective of GR 4.32.  This can be rightly verified from the following GR 4.34 which requires the guard to ensure that the train is properly coupled.  It is a known fact that the guards are not made to physically couple or uncouple the vehicle, and rightly so, whenever extra coaches are attached to the train on the basis of this rule.  If the same criterion is applied here it is beyond doubt that SR 4.32 which is subservient to the GR 4.32 is unfair on the engine crew and caused to do injustice to the engine crew in practice.
  The reading of the subsidiary rules of Central Railway, East Central Railway, North Western Railway, South Central Railway, South Western Railway, Eastern Railway, North Central Railway etc also establish that the subsidiary rule of Southern Railway SR 4.32 has gone beyond the real objectives of  GR 4.32.  In all the former cases the engine crew are not forced to physically do coupling/uncoupling except for ensuring the coupling in the interest of safety thereby giving due regard to the significance of the job attributes of the loco running staff.  Southern Railway is an exception to this general approach due to the unfair influence from some quarters.
The SR 4.32 has been subjected to correction many times in an arbitrary way, always to the disadvantage of the loco running staff, on the basis of subjective evaluations.  In the process the rule has turned into a cause of frictions between staff and served to create industrial unrest.  The rule has also helped those with vested interest and some person in the supervisory levels to use it as a means to instigate the shunting/station staff, who otherwise have no objections in doing coupling/uncoupling.

6.      This rule has also caused to create a wrong impression among the shunting /station staff, mainly due to the instigation and also due to the unilateral punishments given to the loco running staff by the railway administration at the behest of operating authorities without considering the facts and circumstances whenever an issue is emerged. Due to this they are made to believe that they have no responsibility in the matter of coupling/uncoupling and hence are also refusing to render the assistance, according to the last para of SR 4.32, rather than standing on the platform and supervising.
       When SR 4.32 was amended on 1992 the Railway administration had  given assurance that the loco running staff would not be required to physically do coupling/uncoupling at places where shunting/station staff were provided according to the spirit of the third para of SR 4.32 but  put into actual practice only at some places like Chennai central etc.

7.      Whenever there is any dispute regarding the distribution of duties it is imperative on a fair administration to look into the various material factors, the job attributes and the nature of work done by the disputed parties.  Detailing below are some of the points in this regard:
(a)   ALPs are recruited after a long and tough selection process through RRB with minimum ITI qualification.  In fact most of the ALPs who got recruited have higher qualifications of Diploma or Degree in engineering and become capable to be inducted as engine crew only after successfully passing various training programmes whereas shunting / station staffs are not required to go through these tough processes before selection and are having lesser qualifications compared to ALP.
(b)   Even in the case of responsibilities connected to the duty the job of shunting /station staff cannot be compared with the duty of an engine crew.  Engine crew shoulder higher responsibilities and do the significant duty of ensuring safety without any margin for lapse.
(c)    In the case of nature of duty the engine crew is doing a strenuous job under the most adverse conditions and is required to be consciously engaged in the job while on duty.  The shunting/ station staff on the other hand does less strenuous job with less sever effect on safety. The workload on engine crew is also many fold compared to that on the station/shunting staff.
(d)   Shunting staff are performing stationary duties and coupling/uncoupling is one of the main parts of their duty.  They are also provided with required protective apparels like hand gloves, gum boots, helmets etc to perform this duty.  On the other hand the main duty of the engine crew is to run trains safely and punctually.  Moreover it is not possible to provide or to carry the safety apparels like gloves, gum boots, helmets etc..
(e)   Forcing engine crew to do coupling/uncoupling by standing on the human faeces, by enduring  the spillage of urine from the train toilets, by standing on the dirty and hazardous stagnant water on the track without the aid of protective apparels like hand gloves, gumboot, helmets etc. is not only dangerous to their health but also affects their sense of dignity as ensured by the High Power committee to review the HOER, 2013.  The relevant portion is enclosed here with and marked as Annexure I.  During rain things will get even worse.  Making the engine crew to work further in the dirty conditions caused by the coupling and uncoupling is not in the interest of safety.  Moreover the running staff is forced to continue wearing the soiled and wet clothes during their entire spell of duty as they normally reach their home station after two or three days.
      Owing to the running nature of their duty they normally do not get adequate opportunity to recover from this and the difficulties faced by the engine crew in continuing with train working in this bad state of condition  is a matter of serious concern.
Conveniently ignoring all these factors and forcing the engine crew to do coupling/uncoupling is arbitrary and it has created a sense of injustice in the mind of the loco running staff which needs to be addressed.
  The SR 4.32 has no relevance as far as the safety is concerned and has only contributed to cause friction between the staff and created many situations adversely affecting the smooth functioning of the train service. The demand to scrap the rule assumes greater significance as the recognized union SRMU is also in favour of it. They have raised it in the 64th  PNM of TVC division and also staged hunger strike on the issue. They also raised the demand to scrap SR 4.32 as a general issue during the special meeting held with DRM/MAS on 17-04-2012 for which the railway administration replied that the status quo would be continued. So in the objective sense repealing SR 4.32 should not be a problem for the administration.
 The apprehension that the repealing of SR 4.32 would result in additional man power is unfounded as a shunting staff is presently available during coupling for conveying signals.
In the view of above facts this union requests your good self to take necessary steps to find a perpetual solution to the issue and to save the loco running staff from being constantly subjected to harassments and embarrassment.  Till such time the status quo should be maintained to ensure industrial peace and smooth functioning of railway.

 Thanking you                                                                        yours faithfully  

Chennai                                                                                   R Murali )                  
11.10.2013                                                                  General Secretary, AILRSA South Zone

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