Wednesday, October 7, 2015

KOCHI: Loco-pilots of the Railways fear that the imminent festival season would be a taxing time for them, like in the previous years, as the additional train services would worsen their already burdened schedule, owing to severe manpower shortage.

With Sabarimala pilgrimage, Durga Pooja, Diwali and Christmas just a stone’s throw away, the Railway authorities would come out with their usual practice of plying special trains. While some of the special trains fail to find as many passengers as the Railways expects, the loco-pilots are always left to bear the burden.

According to them, the Railway authorities have not taken any step to fill the vacant posts of loco-pilots, despite a directive from the Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC), forcing the Southern Railway to operate with a shortage of around 588 loco-pilots.

“We are victims of human rights violation as we have been denied our weekly off and leave. We have also been deprived of additional perks, despite working over-time. With the festival season round the corner, we are apprehensive of the additional workload that would add to the burden of staff shortage. Though we had taken up the matter with the KSHRC, the Railways managed to mislead the Commission,” said All-India Loco Running Staff Association (South Zone) vice-president P N Soman.

Meanwhile, the KSHRC told ‘Express’ that the Railways was directed to take proper steps to address the shortage of loco-pilots. “The Railway authorities said they would constitute a high-power committee and have the plights of loco-pilots investigated by a joint commission. With that explanation, we closed the case. The petition will be considered only if the complainants came up with a review petition,” said an official with the KSHRC.

According to Soman, as the Railways continues to sit on the proposals regarding recruitment of assistant loco-pilots, the existing workforce were barred from attending promotional tests and training programmes.

“They fear that once they allow us to attend promotion-related courses and training programmes, train services would have to be cancelled.

After putting a lot of pressure on the authorities, we have been allowed to attending the tests/training programmes in groups, which in turn forces others to do extra work.

At present, the Thiruvananthapuram Division has 527 loco-pilots, including six women, while the sanctioned strength is 550,” he said, adding that the Association was planning to meet Southern Railway General Manger to apprise him of the mental and physical agony faced by the loco-pilots in the State.

Meanwhile, the Railway officials said recruitment of assistant loco-pilots has been kept pending as the recently appointed Bibek Debroy Commission calls for reduction of staff in the Railways.

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