Railway: Track Men Work As Domestic Help In Boss' House; Officials Suspended
Last year in November, four train accidents in less than 12 hours killed seven people and injured 11. Between 2003-04 and 2015-16, derailments were the second highest reason for casualties.
A 22 carriage passenger train with 1,000 passengers drifted back 13 km without an engine in Odisha on April 7. Due to manual error or faulty skid brakes, the train started going back towards before the engine could be reattached.
All these instances raise serious questions regarding the safety of passengers using Indian Railways.
An India Today investigation found out that the real culprit behind these mishaps is an age-old feudal structure deeply entrenched in the network’s lower management. The investigation that took place over months and in several places across the country revealed that “trackmen” who were supposed to be looking after the tracks were used for another job.
Trackmen used as domestic help
Instead of catering to the tracks with their tools, they were seen with mops, brooms and knives in their immediate boss’ residence. The investigation revealed that these men were asked by their bosses to work as domestic help instead of working on the field.
At the official residence of Shailesh Kumar, an assistant divisional engineer with the east-central railway at Barauni in Bihar, trackman Manoj Kumar Sah spoke about the job his supervisor had assigned him.
“I stay at his home all day during the duty hours. I have been told to stay and work indoors here,” he told India Today. He further says that he does sweeping, cleaning and cooking for his boss. Even though he was not at the field on his actual duty, he was still marked present. “The attendance is marked here itself. The sheet is here,” Sah said.
Another trackman, Pankaj Yadav, was spotted fencing the garden at the official home of Ajay Kumar Thakur, a senior section engineer at Barauni. When the reporter asked him what was he doing fencing he said that his boss wanted to grow edible crops hence, he was fencing.
In the north zone, the situation was similar. Trackman Raj Kumar was seen sweeping the housing complex of a senior section engineer in Meerut, Mohd. Ashique. “I have swept the floor, disposed of the litter and unloaded some stuff from a vehicle,” Kumar said. “Another round of sweeping will be done in the evening as well. Then, fetching milk and cleaning some dishes too. Why should I lie?”
Last year, Ashwani Lohani, the railway board chairman vowed to end this VIP culture. “I have always believed in the supremacy of the human resource. For me, my employees, not the customers, come first. For, it is my firm conviction, that a contented and happy employee is the prerequisite for the success of any organization. And this great organisation is no exception. I would, therefore, expect employee welfare to be the core concern of all railwaymen,” Lohani wrote in a staff letter last year.
Yet his call for better employee satisfaction falls on deaf ears.
After the India Today report was published, Northern Railway spokesman Nitin Chowdhary said that the officials involved in this practice have been suspended.
You can read the full article on India Today here.