While numerous seminars are held discussing ways of protecting Railway property, Mumbai Friday witnessed one where railway employees spoke about steps needed to be taken to ensure their personal safety.
In a conference hosted by Western Railway Mazdoor Sangh (WRMS), issues related to track safety and maintenance, patrolling of tracks and insufficient remuneration to workers were discussed. “When Railways fails to trace the culprit behind sabotage attempts on tracks, we are cornered,” said Raju Kharate, senior trackman at Andheri station.
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Raju raised concerns over trackmen being accused of playing mischief by placing objects on the tracks, in his speech at the Zonal Safety Conference of technicians and technical supervisors in Mumbai on Friday.
“Mumbai witnessed two major incidents of sabotage attempts in Diwa and Kalamboli sections in the past two months. Suspecting trackmen’s mischief in doing so, inquiries were initiated against many of us. In fact, our contact numbers were also sent to the senior authorities in order to record our conversation. This is the treatment given to us,” he said.
In the past three months, almost five incidents of sabotage attempts were recorded near Diva and Kalamboli sections on the tracks. While a 5-feet long wooden piece was laid on tracks near Diva junction in November, similar instances saw rail pieces and gelatin sticks on tracks.
“Railways adopt incorrect methods to ensure safety of tracks or rails. There is no serious action taken against trespassing of public or nothing major is done to ensure smooth maintenance of tracks. But, when railways were unable to trace the culprit behind the sabotage attempts on rails, inquiries were initiated against us as if we have put peoples’ lives in danger,” he added.
The Government Railway Police along with Railway Protection Force had called for an enquiry against lower rung officials and workers to probe whether the sabotage attempts were mischief done by trackmen. Senior GRP and RPF officials had confirmed that many trackmen were questioned and their call records were seized.
“Does GRP or railways for that matter know how many track men or gang men have lost their lives after patrolling tracks in the night? We, who are considered the backbone of railways work relentlessly on tracks filled with shit for the convenience of commuters. If passenger safety is a concern, our safety must also be an important factor,” one of the railway workers said.
Workers complained against being expected to work for longer hours without receiving enough rest. Meager salaries and unhealthy working conditions demotivates them, they added.
“Our basic requirements with regard to proper rest spaces, equipment when on field and other concerns are not provided to the tee. But when it comes to patrolling on tracks in night hours, we are the first to be sent and questioned. How can railways guarantee safety to passengers when it does not even care about its workers,” Yogesh Vyas, motorman, Churchgate, said.
Issues relating to insufficient workforce to handle patrolling on tracks and look after maintenance were discussed. Railways must work towards hiring people who can solely deal with patrolling of tracks during odd hours of night to ensure safety, they said.
“Focus is on completing duty orders and running higher number of rakes. Railways wants to focus more on progress of running trains than allot more time for blocks. How are mishaps not going to happen in such conditions?” Vyas added.
Workers also demanded construction of more boundary walls between encroachments and tracks for better track cleanliness. Demands for higher salaries and hiring more staff were also made.
“We always ensure completion of maintenance hours of each rake before they are sent on the line,” said Mukul Jain, Divisional Railway Manager, WR.