Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) Correspondent
Safety of railway passengers and railway employees has captured the attention of all the working people of India. All India Loco Running Staff Association organized a seminar to highlight the impact of oppressive working and duty conditions of loco running staff on railway safety. Presented below are a brief report of the seminar, the presentation by AILRSA, and the resolution passed in the seminar.
On 23rd July 2023, All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) organized a very important seminar on “Duty rest imbalance of loco pilots & railway safety” in Chennai. Honorable Justice (Retired) K. Chandru inaugurated the seminar. In addition to a very large number of railway loco pilots, many others attended the seminar.
Com. K. C. James, General Secretary of AILRSA; Com. Elangovan and Com. Harilal from Dakshin Railway Employees Union; Com. K. V. Ramesh from Indian Railway Technical Supervisors Association; Com. M. Rajesh from Dakshin Railway Karmachari Sangh; Com. P. Suryaprakasam from Southern Railway Employee Sangh; Com. Naresh Kumar from All India Station Masters Association; Com. S. Govindraj from Railway Labour Liberation Front presented their views and shared their experience with the audience.
Com. C. Srikumar, who is the General Secretary of All India Defence Employees Federation, on behalf of All India Trade Union Congress; Com. A. K. Padmanaban on behalf of Centre for Indian Trade Unions and Shri. P. Thangaraj on behalf of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh also addressed the meeting.
All the speakers highlighted how the Indian Railways over the years have been refusing to fill vacancies in all cadres of railway employees, thus severely impacting not only the health and well-being of railway employees but also the safety of railway passengers.
The paper presented by AILRSA highlighted the following important points:
- Majority of loco pilots are forced to work for more than 12 hours at a stretch. Many are made to work for more than 14 hours also.
- Loco pilots are often assigned continuous night duty, flouting norms set by the Indian Railways itself.
- Inordinately long working hours and continuous night duty adversely impact the well-being of loco pilots; this sets in fatigue and leads to certain biological responses like “micro sleep,” thus reducing their alertness.
- Loco pilots are not given adequate rest and off days at their homes with their families. This also adds to the stress level of loco pilots.
- Interim reports prepared by Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) in the case of two recent railway collisions (one at Singhpur station, Bilaspur Division, on 19th April 2023 and the other at Ondagram, Adra Division, West Bengal, on 25th June 2023) clearly state that the loco pilots were affected by “micro sleep” due to duty hours much longer than stipulated.
- In 1973, there was a nationwide strike by loco running staff under the banner of AILRSA demanding 8 hours duty at a stretch, and an agreement was made with the Government of India on 13.08.1973. On 14.08.1973, the Minister announced on the floor of Parliament Members that loco running staff will not be required to work for more than 10 hours at a stretch from Sign On to Sign Off. But even now, the agreement has not been implemented.
- Loco pilots have been waging a constant struggle on these issues, but over the last 60 years, this demand has been ignored.
- The High Power Committee appointed by Indian Railways has also accepted that due to various technological advancements, the stress level of loco pilots has in fact increased. But this also has been ignored.
- In the loco pilot category, there is a very large number of vacancies. In some zones, the vacancies are more than 17% of the currently sanctioned posts! This obviously immensely increases the workload on the current loco pilots.
- A National Rail Safety Fund called RRSK has been created with the plan to allocate Rs. 1 lakh crore over 5 years, i.e. Rs. 20,000 crore every year, for safety alone. But this has not been done, thus affecting a lot of safety works.
At the end of the seminar, a resolution was proposed, which was passed by all those present. The resolution states that the recommendations of the High Power Committee given below should be implemented immediately.
- Maximum duty hours should be limited to 10 hours from sign ON to sign OFF
- Consecutive night duties should be limited to two
- Weekly rest should be given independent of daily rest
- Maximum stay away from home should be limited to 48 hours
The resolution appealed to all railway employees, passengers and people of India to strive hard to make Indian Railways a safe, fast, and cheap mode of transport for the working people of our country.
Paper presented in AILRSA Seminar
Resolution of AILRSA Seminar