Thiruvananthapuram: An increasing number of locopilots are opting for voluntary retirement or requesting for deployment in other departments on medical grounds after they are forced to work without “rest days” as the Thiruvananthapuram division is facing an acute shortage of personnel. The latest instance was the voluntary retirement opted by two locopilots of Kollam depot the other day– Joseph Sebastian and Santosh Philip– despite having nearly six years of service left. “Though the retirement age is 60, many are opting for the scheme “very early.” Now there are several other VRS requests pending with the authorities. In the last five years, over 20 among us have requested to be relieved from the duty on medical grounds,” said Mr L. Mony, central president, All-India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA).
He alleged that the refusal of the authorities to fill up vacancies had “overburdened” the existing lot. “However, the authorities are trying to implement a new duty roster for loco-pilots as a desperate measure to tide over the personnel shortage issue– nearly 15 per cent vacancies– instead of conducting recruitment and training of new candidates,” he said. When contacted, a senior railway officer said the new duty roster would ensure that each of the 101 loco-pilots in the division could be deployed strategically and their services would be availed of to the maximum. “Now onwards, the loco-pilots cannot do ‘adjustment’ duties and have to complete the target kilometers,” he said.
“We’re not being given rest day like that provided to the rest of the staff. Many could return to the ‘original’ station only on the third day after logging in,” said another loco-pilot on the condition of anonymity. Currently, there are 37 vacancies of locopilots remaining vacant in the division, which has added new trains like Palaruvi Express and weekly long-haul ones that required services of an additional seven set crew on a war-footing.