Sunday, March 15, 2015

Railway unions rue over rising vacancies

 MADURAI: With vacancies in both safety and non-safety categories steadily increasing, railway employee unions which expected that the recent Union railway budget will make a mention are disappointed after finding that nothing was addressed in it.

Railway unions estimate that there are three lakh vacancies across Indian Railways and more than 20,000 vacancies in Southern Railway alone. Every year, a sizeable workforce retires but such vacancies are not filled in due time, unionists rued.

N Kannaiah, general secretary of Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU) said that such large number of vacancies in railways hamper safe operation of trains in addition to putting railway employees under enormous pressure. "Vacancies exist in both safety and non-safety categories and every year the number keeps increasing since more employees retire. The gap between vacancies and recruitments is widening every year and we hoped that the Union railway minister will address such grave issues in the budget," he said.

Instead of filling vacancies, measures like yoga classes to beat stress have been introduced by the railways which many employees feel will not benefit. "How will yoga help when I am bogged down with extended work hours and unable to spend quality time with my family?" asked a railway employee in Madurai who did not want to be named.

Besides, the union members also expressed concern that there was no mention about the new pension scheme.

R Sankaranarayanan, divisional secretary of Dakshin Railway Employee Union (DREU) said that former Union railway minister, Mallikarjun Kharge submitted their demand of repealing the new pension scheme to the finance ministry during the UPA regime.

"Like defence sector, we proposed to exempt railways from the new pension scheme and revive the old scheme. Former railway minister agreed to this and forwarded the proposal to the finance ministry. We hoped that the current railway budget will throw some light on it but there was no mention about it," he said.

Senior officials from Southern Railway said that there was nothing negative for employees, especially privatization as feared most by railway unions. In fact, there were some features like fund allocation to maintain railway colonies, they said. "Generally, railway budget does not mention about vacancies. The vacancies get filled as part of the system and unions need not worry since the gap will be bridged soon," one of the senior official said.


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