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No time to rest, loco pilots battle fatigue while ferrying passengers

The pilots are being made to work in violation of the ‘rest rules for running staff’ of Indian Railways.

punjab Updated: Sep 10, 2018 11:39 IST
Jatinder Kaur Tur
Jatinder Kaur Tur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
loco pilots,passengers,Railway Board
The Railway Board despite being aware of the problem amid repeated representations from the running staff has shown its helplessness by not doing anything concrete in this regard.(HT File Photo)

Loco pilots these days are trying hard not to doze off while ferrying thousands of passengers in the northern region and beyond as they battle fatigue and lack of sleep, with the railways battling a shortage of running staff.

Getting little time for rest, they are being made to work in violation of the ‘rest rules for running staff’ of the Indian Railways.

Interestingly, the Railway Board despite being aware of the problem amid repeated representations from the running staff has shown its helplessness by not doing anything concrete in this regard.

The board had issued a letter on July 17 that the running staff should report for duty only after completion of rest of 16 hours at the headquarters and 8 hours at the outstations.

But in an August 2 letter marked to various stakeholders, including all general managers of the zonal railways, the board said the matter had been deliberated upon in detail, and maintaining in view of the paucity of running staff, the previous directive will be kept pending till the vacancies are filled.

In October 2016, it had issued instructions stipulating that the limit of ‘stay away’ from the headquarters for running staff should be fixed at 72 hours and that the call notice period should continue to be a part of the headquarters/ outstation rest.

The All India Railwaymen’s Federation had approached the board complaining that the zonal railways was violating the ‘rest rules for running staff’ as they were being asked to report for duty even before completion of rest at the headquarters. The board then had maintained that such practice, if being followed, was definitely not in the interest of the safety of passengers.

In a meeting on January 22 this year, it was decided that 16 hours of rest must be ensured to the running staff.

Vishwanath Gupta, central vice president, All India Loco Pilot Running Staff Association, said the rest rules are not being followed in case of mail, passenger and goods trains. “There is 35% running staff shortage across all divisions of the Indian Railways, and nearly 40% in the Northern Railways.”

A loco pilot of a goods train said though the rule book says they are not supposed to work more than 10 hours a day, they often end up working up to16 daily.

Divisional railway manager (DRM, Ambala) Dinesh Chand Sharma said some vacancies of running staff will to be filled.”Neither the safety of passengers nor the health of loco running staff is being compromised. New recruits have to be trained for two years before being entrusted with the job,” he said.

First Published: Sep 10, 2018 11:34 IST