After track maintainer’s death, a plea for safety measures

Railway track maintainers and keymen have sought safer working conditions against the backdrop of a track maintainer being fatally knocked down by a loco engine and his colleague getting critically injured in Thrissur on Monday. The duo had got onto the next track upon seeing a train approaching on the track they were walking on, and were run over by the loco engine. Alappuzha native Harshakumar died on the spot.

“Around 300 of our colleagues die each year in such accidents. We have been demanding that Railway provide us walkie-talkies to get live alerts on train movement and to improve our working conditions. This would help personnel in remote locations inform supervisors about the condition of railway tracks if need arose,” said Sarathkumar S., secretary in charge, Southern Railway Track Maintainers’ Unity.

He said he too had encountered a similar incident. “Visibility is especially poor during the rainy season and at curves and when there are trains in both the up and down tracks.”

Threat from wild animals

There have been instances of run-ins with wild animals near the track at Walayar, Nilambur, and Punalur. “Recently, on the Ooty-Mettupalayam route, two track maintainers escaped from a leopard by sheer luck. A track maintainer was trampled to death by an elephant at Kallar in 2010,” said a pointsman who has faced a similar situation.

Against COVID-19

In addition, track maintainers (around 35% of whom are women) have sought measures to prevent spread of COVID-19 among the workforce. “We work in groups and handle the same tools and machinery,” they said said.

They also alleged impediments to promotion. According to them, most personnel retire as keyman (who patrol tracks) and the working conditions remain the same until retirement.

In response, railway sources said the working conditions, salary structure and promotion prospects of personnel engaged in track duty had improved over the years, based on pay commission recommendations. They can become technician, supervisor or engineer. A main demand has been permission for lateral entry, which is difficult now, they said.

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 11:47:45 PM |

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