Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
A recent letter of the Railway Board (reproduced below) to its General Managers accepts that “the crew are being worked for more than stipulated duty hours at times.”
The fact is that all over the Indian Railways loco pilots are being made to work routinely beyond the stipulated duty hours. While the number of trains, both goods and passenger, have increased over the years, nearly 40,000 vacancies of loco pilots have not been filled up for years, resulting in gross overwork for those who are there.
Investigations in a number of recent cases of collisions of trains due to loco pilots crossing signals have revealed that such lapses took place due to fatigue caused by long working hours. In the case of a recent collision between two goods trains in Adra Division of South Eastern Railway loco pilot was on duty for 19 hours 10 minutes when he failed to notice signal at danger. Yet, two loco pilots were blamed and removed from service within a few days of the accident, without even conducting an enquiry.
The enquiry of the Safety Commissioner in the collision between two goods trains on 19 April 2023 in Bilaspur Division of South East Central Railway says, “the crew of the approaching train had put in 14 hours of duty, well beyond the stipulated nine hours. The speed at which the trains collided – 56 kmph – was a telling sign that fatigue or drowsiness may have played a major role.” The Commissioner noted that the accident was caused due to the complete disregard of the extant rules framed to regulate the working hours of loco pilots and to ensure safe train operations.
In the above collision a loco pilot died and several others were injured.
These accidents raise many questions.
- Who should be held responsible for this loss of life?
- Is it fair to remove loco pilots from service after making them work for an inhuman 19 hours of duty?
- Who should be held accountable for the present culture of disregard of regulations for safety of rail workers, passengers and railway property in the Indian Railways?
- Is it fair for the Railways Board to disown its responsibility by blaming railway zones for disregarding duty hours?
- Who is responsible for thousands of unfilled vacancies for years?
Rail workers are definitely not responsible for any of the above. They actually are victims of the above neglect and disregard.
The safety of rail workers and passengers will not be ensured until systemic problems are addressed. Railways cannot be run with profit as the motive which is making railways cut expenditure on workforce and maintenance. Indian Railways have to be considered as an essential public service and should be run with that objective.