Train drivers draw Rahul Gandhi’s attention to ‘serious safety issues’ in railways

The Uncut

New Delhi: A group of train drivers has submitted a memorandum to the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Rahul Gandhi blaming poor working conditions for the recent rail accidents, said R Kumaresan, president of the South Zone of the All India Loco Running Staff Association.

Gandhi had met a group of loco pilots on Friday and assured them that he would raise the issue of “privatisation of railways” and lack of remuneration. Kumaresan, who played a key role in arranging the meeting between the former Congress president and train drivers at the New Delhi railway station on Friday, told PTI that the loco pilots wanted to draw Gandhi’s attention to the “serious safety issues” faced by themselves and passengers in the railways.

“Recent accidents, including those involving Indian Railways, have highlighted the urgent need to address several issues, including improvement in the working conditions of loco pilots,” the association said in the memorandum. Highlighting the plight of train drivers, the memorandum said loco pilots, particularly those driving freight trains, work for 14 to 16 hours a day and go home after three or four days.

It said these drivers work continuously for more than four nights and instead of weekly rest, they are given rest once in 10 days. The memorandum said a safety task force constituted by the railways in 2017 found that ‘red signal’ violations mostly occur when loco pilots return to work after “inadequate weekly rest”.

“Since they (train drivers) are not given leave to do their domestic work, they do domestic work during their rest period and hence they are not able to get adequate rest,” the memorandum said. “All employees get 40 to 64 hours of weekly rest, but loco pilots get only 30 hours of rest,” it added.

The issue of continuous night duty was also mentioned in the memorandum. It said that the loco pilots believe that continuous night duty increases the possibility of accidents. The loco pilots also raised the issue of continuous duty for many hours before Gandhi. They said that this increases fatigue.

The loco pilots associations said that in 1973, the ‘loco-running staff’ under the banner of AILRSA led by M Rathina Sabapathy had staged a nationwide strike for eight-hour duty and an agreement was reached with the government on August 13 of the same year.

The train drivers said that on August 14, 1973, the then minister had announced in Parliament that members of the ‘loco running staff’ would not have to work for more than 10 hours continuously. They alleged that the agreement was not followed and loco pilots were forced to work for more than 14 hours continuously.

The memorandum also mentioned the problem of absence of toilets in railway engines. The train drivers urged Gandhi to “intervene and take necessary steps to ensure safety by removing the cause of human error.”

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