Every train driver and his assistant will have to take a breathalyser test every time they sign in for duty. All senior supervisors in the Railways will have to maintain a special list of those known for their drinking habits or those who have had a history of drinking or other substance abuse.
These are part of the Railways’ new policy to check alcohol consumption among staff on duty, particularly those directly responsible for running trains, managing stations and offering services on trains. After years in the pipeline, the new draft policy has been sent for comments from stakeholders before being notified.
The new measures seek to enforce strict punishment along with a permissible limit of alcohol content among on-duty staff. For example, for a driver, if the alcohol content is found to be 1-20 milligram per 100 millilitre of blood then he would be allowed to perform duty after it being mentioned in his service record.
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A second such offence would invite removal from service. If alcohol content is found to be over 21 milligram, then he is liable to be removed from service with immediate effect.
The Railways has around 83,000 drivers and assistant drivers besides about 10 lakh others who come under the ‘Safety’ category and will be under the policy’s purview.
“All senior supervisors should be advised to take feedback from different sources and maintain a list of staff working under them who are habitual drinkers. In case an employee is found to be a habitual drinker in the initial training period, his service should not be confirmed,” says the policy.
“In case a staff member refuses to cooperate in undergoing the breathalyser test he should be put under Discipline and Appeals Rules, treating it to be positive breathalyser test,” it says. No one will be allowed to sign in for duty without undergoing the test.
Apart from equipping every crew in the country with breathalysers that can measure exact quantity of alcohol in the blood and print the report, the Railways also seeks to equip every supervisor with portable versions of such machines for surprise inspection of staff on duty.
Two categories of staff are covered under the policy — those who are responsible for safety-related works, like drivers, assistant drivers, station masters, pointsmen and others; and those who comprise onboard staff in trains and could “bring dishonour and disrepute to the Railways”.
Violators who belong to the first category are liable to be removed from service as the maximum punishment, while those in the other category, can be imprisoned for a year.
Not giving the staff the benefit of doubt in case of an accident, the policy provides for alcohol test immediately after accidents, even if it prima facie appears that the staff were not responsible for the accident.
The Railways will send habitual drinkers to de-addiction camps and tie up with NGOs to help check the habit. But the cost of de-addiction exercises would be borne by the employee for which the Railways will grant leaves.
“We are preparing our comments and will not allow removal of employees because alcoholism is a social disease which needs to be cured. Removal from service is like a death sentence,” said Shiv Gopal Mishra, secretary-general of the All-India Railwaymen’s Federation, the largest trade union in the Railways.