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At 1,000 cases a day, Railways has lost 1,952 staff so far

“As of now we have 4,000 beds currently occupied by staff and their families. Our effort is to see that they recover quickly. As of yesterday, 1,952 rail employees have died due to Covid-19 since March last year,” said Suneet Sharma, Chairman Railway Board.

The researchers made use of air, rail and road transport between these cities to bring out this hazard map for the country and compared them with the spread of Covid-19 cases reported between March and July 2020. (File Photo)

INDIAN RAILWAYS has lost 1,952 of its employees, including frontline staff like station masters, to the pandemic since last year, and even now around 1,000 railwaymen are reporting affected on a daily basis, the Railways Ministry said on Monday.

“As of now we have 4,000 beds currently occupied by staff and their families. Our effort is to see that they recover quickly. As of yesterday, 1,952 rail employees have died due to Covid-19 since March last year,” said Suneet Sharma, Chairman Railway Board.

“Railway is not different from any other state or territory and we are also getting Covid cases… We have to move freight and people. Around 1,000 cases are reported daily. We have augmented the number of beds, we have built oxygen plants in rail hospitals. We take care of our staff…,” he added.

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So far, 113 station masters have died in the pandemic, most of them in the second wave this year, according to the All Indian Station Masters’ Association (AISMA). The Railway Protection Force has so far lost 50 men.

In letters to Railway Board as well as several rail divisions, the association has demanded things like special insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh for each of them, and immediate vaccination of their cadre. It has said that due to many station masters falling sick, the truncated staff have to work overtime, since stations cannot be left without station masters.

Read |Occupancy dips, Railways cancels several trains

Employees’ unions of the Railways – the largest commercial utility employer in India – have cited that around 1 lakh employees have been struck by the virus during the pandemic, of which two-third have so far recovered.

“From the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown, we the Station Masters of Indian Railways and other Frontline Staff have been fighting as Corona Warriors and have rendered our services in moving the wheels of the Nation… But, we are sorry to inform that no office has given us any positive response,” Sunil Kumar, secretary general of AISMA, wrote in a letter to the Railway Board.

Currently, the focus is on vaccinating the staff, officials said. In several zones and divisions, effort is on to vaccinate staff in batches through coordination with state governments. “It is a top priority for us to get all our staff vaccinated. We are in constant coordination with the state governments,” said S C Jain, Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi.

When vaccination opened for frontline workers, railway medical staff as well as RPF personnel got vaccinated. However, other categories like ticket checkers, station masters, drivers and guards were not included in that drive.

A couple of days ago, the All India Railwaymen’s Federation, the largest railway union, wrote to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal demanding compensation on a par with frontline workers for railwaymen who lost their lives while working during the crisis. In the letter, they said that these employees deserved Rs 50 lakh compensation, same as that announced for frontline workers and not Rs 25 lakh, which is paid to them.

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