RMU demands high-power committee meet on safety norms

Even as the Railway authorities began a probe the reason for the horrific tragedy in S-11 coach of the ill-fated Tamil Nadu Express near Nellore on Tuesday, the trade union leaders have blamed the Ministry of Railways for its compromise on safety norms, shortage of staff and use of substandard material in rail coaches.

The leaders of South Central Railway Mazdoor Union, Employees Sangh and Rail Mazdoor Union gave vent to their feelings demanding a meeting of the high-power committee on safety norms of the Railway Board. “I never saw such a ghastly accident of such magnitude in my 30-years of service,” said a shell-shocked SCR Mazdoor Union division secretary P. Swamy Charan.

He emphasised on the need for the modernisation of Indian Railways and said that the need of the hour was introduction of fire-proof coaches in a phased manner. “Indian Railways, owing to the populist schemes by the politicians, is suffering. The meagre passenger fare is one of the main reasons forcing railways towards economic failure. To make up for the losses, the railway authorities are reducing staff leading to compromise on the safety,” he pointed out.

“As many as 2,60,000 vacancies exist in the electrical department which is 60 per cent of the total number of vacant posts. The train lighting department, which takes care of the fans, lights and other electrical accessories, is also facing acute shortage of staff,” ” he added.

Many union leaders felt that the loco (engine) should go for a thorough overhauling once a month. “But the engines visit the electrical loco shed once in 60 months, leading to increased wear and tear”, the leaders felt. They said contract system was playing havoc with safety. “The accountability of a contract worker is questionable. He or she will not have the emotional connect as that of a permanent employee,” they said. Mazdoor Union president D. Rama Rao said that the railway officials always preferred companies quoting low rates in tender for supply of goods, which were poor in quality. “Cheap goods are used in all the departments that include coaches”.

‘Frisking must’

SCR Employees Sangh leader Venkatasubbaiah said that each coach should have a fire extinguisher and one policeman for two coaches to keep a vigil on the movements of anti-social elements. “Like in airports, a constant frisking is a must in rail stations and in coaches to check the evil designs of the miscreants,” he felt. Mr. Charan said the common causes for fire in train was friction in hot axle near the wheels, through faulty cables and wiring, due to cigarette buds in dust bins, unclean battery and inflammables.

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