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Was it only faulty lines that caused the railways mishaps? Overworked staff doesn’t think so

Was it only faulty lines that caused the railways mishaps? Overworked staff doesn’t think so

NEW DELHI: Railways workers had red-flagged the government over network safety about four months before two back-to-back train accidents prompted Suresh Prabhu to offer his resignation as the railway minister.

At a meeting of the Joint Consultative Machinery (JCM) on May 3, the ‘staff side’ had warned that the railway employees were working long beyond duty hours amid a staff crunch forced by a “ban” on recruitment. The JCM is a dialogue mechanism between the staff and the ‘official side’ for peaceful resolution of disputes between the government and its employees.

The May 3 JCM meeting was chaired by secretary (personnel) BP Sharma, who has since retired. “In view of the ongoing ban on recruitment imposed by the Department of Expenditure, the staff are having to work long hours,” the leader of the staff side had complained, as per minutes of the meeting, which have been made public only now.

“This is despite the task force, set up by the ministry of railways on safety related matters, having suggested that additional staff be mobilised to ensure safety. Even the Hon’ble Prime Minister in his speeches has stressed the need for safety; but the ministry of railways has chosen to ignore.”

The representatives of the staff side for the JCM are selected from members of the recognised service associations and employee unions. But the government denied any ban on recruitment. It, however, “admitted” that “the recruitment processes is slow”, according to the minutes.

However, the staff side stuck to its view and contended that “the reality is otherwise” and no recruitment has taken place to meet the increased operational requirement of the railway ministry.

“Whenever a new service or train is introduced, it is not followed up with creation of posts. As a result, the operations are suffering and the employees are working beyond duty hours,” the staff side argued, according to the minutes.

“It was stated that often a proposal for creation of posts is returned with the rider of matching savings. They (staff side) requested that a direction should go from chairman of the standing committee that no new service should be introduced till new posts are created… they argued that if the power to introduce new trains is delegated to the Railway Board, the power to create posts and make recruitment should also be delegated to the Board.” “On concerns expressed by the staff side on security-related aspects, the representative of the ministry was asked to take note of them,” the minutes said.

Source: ET

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