Loco pilots need not give mental fitness certificate

Following threats to stop work, Bengaluru Division finally withdrew the written note to the duo, demanding a certification of mental fitness from Nimhans, said railway sources. 

Published: 03rd July 2023 08:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd July 2023 08:19 AM   |  A+A-

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Express News Service

BENGALURU:  The request for leave from duty by overworked loco pilots of goods trains came to a head on Friday, with nearly 40 Loco Pilots and Assistant Loco Pilots staging a day-long stir at the Divisional Railway Manager’s office. The issue pertained to alleged harassment of two train drivers by officials, as they requested leave to take rest. 

Following threats to stop work, Bengaluru Division finally withdrew the written note to the duo, demanding a certification of mental fitness from Nimhans, said railway sources. Locopilot S K Vishwakumar and assistant loco pilot M Sarfraz Alam, who were taken off duty for nearly a month, are back in the driver’s seat now. 

Sources told TNIE that tension between the administration and train drivers was simmering since June 3, when the two drivers wanted rest as they had put in 12-hour shifts for three consecutive days, and were marked for a similar long shift for the fourth day. 

“They felt really tired and wanted rest. They approached the Operations team to give them a day’s sick leave, but the request went unheeded. They later approached the head of their department, Senior Divisional Electrical Engineer (SDEE) V Surendranath.”

The leave application was written by Vishwakumar in English (the norm in Railways), a language he is not fluent in. “He had conveyed he was mentally disturbed because the Operations was not giving them leave. The SDEE saw these words and insisted they bring a recommendation for sick leave from Nimhans,” he said. The medically ill or fit certification for railway employees in Bengaluru Division is generally issued only by the Railway Hospital.

Despite the LP trying to clear the confusion by explaining his limited knowledge of English, Surendranath allegedly refused to pay any heed. “The duo was taken off ‘Mainland Working’ (train operations) and marked as medical leave on the roster for the full month. It was a harassing experience as they kept commuting to Nimhans and waiting in long queues for a certificate to declare them mentally ill and also fit. Finally, LPs and ALPs declared their solidarity to end to this unwarranted harassment,” another source said. The administration has agreed to treat the days from Day 1 of special medical leave (03/06/2023) till date, for both drivers as on duty, a source said. 

Another official told TNIE, “There is an acute shortage of drivers for goods trains in Bengaluru division, particularly after the pandemic, as their operations have soared. Around 180 drivers report to Krishnarajapuram loco shed. One-third of them work on 12-hr shifts due to staff shortage.” 

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