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Amid Severe Resource Crunch, Railway Babus Use Trackmen as Batmen

In the wake of three train derailments in the last fortnight, a rough estimate made by the government pegs the number of trackmen being used as ‘domestic help’ at 50,000 when they should be used exclusively to keep a vigil on railway tracks.

Chandan Kumar | News18.com

Updated:August 30, 2017, 6:26 PM IST
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Amid Severe Resource Crunch, Railway Babus Use Trackmen as Batmen
Image for representational purpose.
New Delhi: Even as Railways grapples with a severe resource crunch to maintain safety standards, a large chunk of its manpower employed to maintain tracks is kept by babus to run home errands.

In the wake of three train derailments in the last fortnight, a rough estimate made by the government pegs the number of trackmen being used as ‘domestic help’ at 50,000 when they should be used exclusively to keep a vigil on railway tracks.

In a letter sent to all station masters and senior officers under his jurisdiction, the Divisional Railway Manager of the Vijayawada division of South Central Railways regrets that it has come to the notice that "Pointsmen are deputed for various works which are not included in the duties of pointsmen like sending them out for bringing tea, snacks and other personal works that are highly irregular and result in non-exchange of alright signals for trains, delay in attending failures etc., and inviting unsafe situations and adverse comments."

It is further instructed in the letter that pointsmen henceforth shall be deputed to attend only to the lawful duties. Non-compliance - it is warned on the government missive - would invite strict action.

letter 1

The shakeup in the Railways follows three incidents of derailments in the last fortnight.

At least 20 people died and over 100 suffered injuries after the Utkal Express derailed near Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar earlier in August. In the same week, the Delhi-bound Kaifiat Express derailed near Auriya in UP leading to 74 injuries. This was followed by a third derailment, this one near Kalyan on the outskirts of Mumbai.

A total of 2 lakh personnel are required to patrol, maintain and man the 1.40 lakh kilometres of railway lines in India. Currently, the railway is facing a crunch of around 50,000 people for the job. Yet, these trackmen are kept busy with household chores, fetching tea and snacks for railway officials.

Another order from South Eastern Railways, dated August 28, instructed that “all the trackmen who are working in the office and residence of any official are to be withdrawn immediately and they should be sent to their respective gangs for track work.”

Every year, over 300 trackmen die in service and over 3,000 get injured in rail accidents. Despite these trying circumstances, and a severe shortage of people manning India’s railway lines, trackmen continue to be engaged in household work of railway officers instead of patrolling tracks.
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