नयी दिल्ली New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the railways to look into the plight of locomotive drivers who had complained to the panel about denial of time for food and refreshment during their long hours of duty and non-existence of toilet facilities in the engines.
In the complaint to NHRC, the loco drivers had claimed they had to go without food and toilet breaks during their gruelling 12-hour shifts, mostly in night.
Acting on the complaint, the human rights watchdog directed the railway board chairman to set up a committee of all stakeholders including technical and other experts to consider the grievances and report within two months.
“The Committee should be directed to give hearing to the representatives of the complainants (loco drivers) and find out adequate solution of the problems,” the NHRC said.
In its petition, Indian Railway Loco Running Men’s Organization (IRLRO) urged the panel to protect train drivers’ right to take food or take toilet breaks during the mandated 12 working hours, arguing that there was no provision for these in the Railways Act.
The organization said there is no toilet facility in the engines and train drivers are not allowed any time to attend the nature’s call while on duty.
“Indian Railway Loco Pilots are the only category of workers who are denied break to take food and answer the nature’s call,” said SK Pandhi, working president, IRLRO.
Arguing that loco pilots come under “continuous category” of employees and they get additional pay and allowances for the same, the railways said, “They (drivers) can have refreshments and avail of toilet facilities during halts at stations. On board, toilet facilities are not provided to the crew in view of the exigency of their services.”
The transporter also pointed out that it was not feasible to authorize the running staff to halt the running train for taking food, refreshments and answer the nature’s call which may lead to unnecessary delay and adversely affect the operation of other trains.
The union said, “The duty hours of loco running staff are 12 hours. The crew is left with no option but to control hunger and any need to use toilet till the end of duty hours.”
The union also claimed there are other grey areas in the working conditions. For instance, there is no provision for weekly or periodical off, no break during duty hours and no cut-off time for night duty for drivers.