Southern Railway loco pilots stage protest in Chennai demanding better working conditions
CHENNAI: Southern Railway’s loco running staff who drive long distance trains, suburban trains and goods trains staged a protest in front of Moore Market Complex suburban terminal demanding that railways introduce recommendations of a high power committee which suggested better regulation of working hours and increasing rest time.
The report was submitted to the ministry in 2013, but is yet to be implemented.
The loco running staff under the banner of the All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) have also threatened to go on a hunger strike for 36 hours from December 14 if no action is taken to implement the recommendations of the high power committee.
In its petition to divisional railway manager and to the railway ministry, the association said loco pilots and motormen were suffering from long working hours, unscheduled duty time, six consecutive night duties, meagre rest in between trips, inadequate weekly rest, poor condition of running room used for halt and unergonomic loco cabins.
“These factors cause fatigue and increase chances of human errors which can impact safety. The rules have been in vogue for several years but the number of trains have increased considerably,” said a loco pilot who took part in the protest.
AILRSA has been demanding that railway implement six hours of duty at a stretch, 16 hours plus two hours of preparation time at a station where loco pilot is posted, four periods of 46 hours rest in a month, eight hours rest plus preparation time at outstation and only two consecutive night duty.
The petition also said, “Today trains are running on close proximity in comparison with the past. Therefore, the alertness of all staff especially on high density routes has assumed greater significance. In the last five years, 270 loco running staff of the Indian Railways were dismissed or are forced to go on compulsory retirement for passing a red signal. Such instances can be avoided if better duty hours and rest time are introduced.”
The high power committee recommended 12 hours duty at a stretch, 16 hours rest at base station irrespective of the duty, four periods of 40 hours periodical rest in a month, eight hours rest at outstation irrespective of the duty performed, two consecutive night duties with a condition that duty on the third night should be a return journey, AC running rooms with three to four star facilities and subsidised meals.
Currently loco pilots put in 13 hours of duty at a stretch, 12 hours rest for eight hours duty and 16 hours rest for more than eight hours duty at the base station, four periods of 30 hours periodical rest, six consecutive night duties and eight hours rest for eight hours duty and equal hours of rest if duty time is less than eight hours.
The Railway Safety Review Committee has commended the Indian Railways for being one of the most efficiently run organisations. Railway employees have pointed out that despite the poor working conditions they have been dedicated to maintaining the standards of Indian railways.
Though the railway ministry has invested crores rupees on the implementation of modern technology, nothing has been done for human resource development.