‘Safety departments should be under the control of commissioners of railway safety’
The All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA), South Western Railway (SWR), urged the Prime Minister and the Minister for Railways to accord top priority to safety in Railways besides taking steps to reduce the expenditure and increase productivity.
Over the years, the numbers of railway zones and divisions have increased from nine and 52 to 17 and 64 respectively, without there being much increase in productivity. The number of officers too, has increased from 8,000 in 1998 to 17,000 in 2012 whereas the route network has increased just by 11,000 km between 1947 and 2014, said Association’s zonal General Secretary C. Sunish.
Submitting a memorandum, Mr. Sunish noted that Narendra Modi had invited suggestions from general managers of Railway zones and divisional railway managers about improving the performance. However, people on the ground like loco pilots could effectively highlight actual issues and problems and hence the memorandum, he said.
Mr. Sunish said the English had introduced the railway zone system to decentralise administration in the absence of sophisticated communication systems. Zones receive budgetary allocation and distribute among divisions.
The Chinese Railway has recently scrapped zones. Indian Railways too could do away zones and allocate funds to divisions and the Railway Board could monitor functioning.
If at all zones could not be eliminated, existing zones should be thoroughly reorganised by equitable distribution of divisions and merging zones functioning in close geographical proximity, he said.
Mr. Sunish said safety departments, under divisions/ zones, are unable to enforce safety norms independently, and urged the Ministry to bring them directly under Commissioners of Railway Safety.
He alleged that the bureaucracy is only concerned about economy while the government alone can ensure safety because of its social obligation. Inquiries after mishaps hold only Group C and D employees responsible absolving the higher ups, who actually take decisions concerning safety, he pointed out.
Though human failure is said to be responsible for two thirds of accidents, the Railways has not done away with 13-hour minimum duty and six continuous night duties for loco pilots.
The Association strongly urged the Ministry to implement reports of Anil Kakodkar and Justice Khan committees, he said. Motorman should be posted at both the ends cabs of suburban electrical multiple unit (EMU) trains to avoid delay in turnout times as well as to offer rest to the motorman not on duty.
The Railways could increase revenue by properly pricing the season tickets, checking ticketless travel, he added.
Loco pilots’ suggestions for Railway Budget
*Bring safety department under the direct control of commissioners of railway safety of respective zones
*Reduce unreasonable workload on loco pilots; provide ergonomically designed comfortable loco cabins
*Reduce expenditure—number of officers increased from 8,000 in 1998 to 17,000 in 2012; zones and divisions from 9 and 52 to 17 and 64 without corresponding increase in productivity
*Complete overhauling of tracks, signalling and other infrastructure to increase train speed.