Loco pilots signal red over inadequate rest

Instead of giving 46 hours of rest, the Railways allotted them 30 hours by adding 14 hours to the existing 16
Train

KOCHI : Even as loco pilots cite gruelling working hours as a reason behind the increasing train accidents, the Railways shoots down the allegations as unfounded. At the same time, the fact remains that loco pilots have been raising the issue of a lack of adequate rest for some time. A loco pilot, under the condition of anonymity says, “When other staff in the Railways get 48 hours to rest, the loco pilots who have a more strenuous job have only 30 hours. And these 30 hours too have been a recent development, following the Bengaluru High Court ruling. The ruling, however, had said that we were to be given a rest period of 46 hours.”

The loco pilots point out that the Railways have been duplicitous in this regard. Instead of giving 46 hours of rest, the Railways allotted them 30 hours by adding 14 hours to the existing 16, they allege.

The loco pilots accuse the Railways of not taking into consideration the delays during train services.

“The Railways wants us to operate like a machine. As per their stipulated resting hour, we have to switch off and on according to schedule. We don’t get a breather,” says a loco pilot. According to the All India Loco Running Staff Association, one of the reasons behind this archaic rule is the lack of a sufficient number of loco pilots. “It should be noted that the number of loco pilot posts sanctioned for the Thiruvananthapuram Division is 712 while there are only 650 now. In Palakkad Division, the sanctioned strength is 656 but the number of personnel working is 594. These vacancies include loco pilots in the mail, passenger, goods, shunting, assistant loco pilot, loco inspector and crew controller categories,” says a loco pilot from Palakkad.

They also raised the issue of working for three nights at a stretch. “How is it humanly possible to work three nights at a stretch? If you consider the accidents that have recently happened, it can be seen that loco pilot exhaustion is the main reason,” says the association.

The situation is such that the loco pilots have begun availing 30 hours of periodical rest in addition to the daily rest of 16 hours, as a mode of protest. The Palakkad Division recently took action against three loco pilots for doing so.

“They were transferred to different distant places. However, that will not break our spirit,” says a loco pilot. Stressing on their demands, the loco pilots say, “We will not work for more than 10 hours, will avail 46 hours of weekly rest, will no longer be ready to work for more than two consecutive nights and will return to the headquarters after completion of 48 hours of outstation duty.” Meanwhile, the Railways terms the agitation illegal.

“This agitation has led to the disruption of the smooth functioning of the crew link or roster. However, the Thiruvananthapuram division has taken steps to ensure that the trains, especially the passenger services including the mail, super fast and express, run as per schedule,” says a Railways source.

He says the loco pilots with Indian Railways have a defined system of working.

“This is the same across all divisions. In the Thiruvananthapuram division, the average working hours of a loco pilot is around five hours,” he adds.

Sleepless nights

  • The loco pilots accuse Railways of not taking into consideration the delays during train services

  • They also raised the issue of working for three nights at a stretch.

  • They have begun availing 30 hours of periodical rest in addition to the daily rest of 16 hours, as mode of protest

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