NRMS protests for safety of Railway Gangmen

The recent incident that killed four gangmen on the railway tracks has led to this protest highlighting their plight and demanding safety measures for them while they work

Some 20,000 workers of the National Railway Mazdoor Sangh (NRMS) protested on platform 8 and 9 of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) with regard to the safety and shortage of gang-men in the suburban division in the aftermath of the November 3 accident which crushed four gang-men to death. They marched to the General Manager’s office and issued a memorandum of demands to him.

Four railway gang-men, carrying out maintenance work on the tracks, were killed after a speeding Kolhapur-bound long distance train hit them between Thakurli and Kalyan railway stations in the neighbouring Thane district. The victims were busy conducting maintenance work on the tracks and thus did not realize that a fast train was approaching. The four died on the spot after being hit by Koyna Express.

According to Venu Nair, Divisional Secretary, NRMU, “The sanctioned strength of gang-men in Mumbai division is 3,712. At present, the operational strength is 3,107.” A.K. Mahendru, Assistant General Secretary of National Railway Mazdoor Union said, “Since the last five years, 150 gang-men have died on the tracks. They are not given proper facilities. There is no dignity to their death too. Their dead bodies lie on the tracks for hours together”.

The memorandum (copy with the ADC) states that all vacancies of trackmen and other railway staff be filled in immediately, either from existing panels or by  recruitment of substitutes. Additional men for manning the additional assets be provided immediately through existing panels or substitutes. The staff working in bungalows and quarters of officers or supervisors be sent back to the gangs or work places. An enquiry should be conducted by a high power, independent committee into the deaths on November 3 and earlier deaths as promised in the discussion on October 28. There should be strict instructions to the PWIs that they should be with the workers till the work is over. All safety measures should be ensured i.e. flagman, waterman etc. should be available in each gang while trackmen are doing their work. The workers should be allowed to avail important holidays unless there is a serious emergency.

“According to the rules, within 30 metres of the train, there needs to be a gang-man with one cross red banner. Within 600 metres another gang-man needs to be present to give a signal to the gang-man along with the red cross banner. Within 1200 metres, another gang-man needs to be present to give a signal to the other two gang-men. But safety rules are not implemented”, said Nair. “On paper, there should be 25 gang-men in one section. But only five to ten of the, are actually present”, he added.

The NRMS also reportedly pressurised the railways that within 15 days, a compensation of Rs.25 lakh be given to the families of those who died in the recent accident and job be given to their immediate family members as promised.

“At present there are 150 suburban guards. Due to shortage of staff, they cannot take holidays during festivals etc. The Central Railways needs to act. Apart from the vacancy of 605 gang-men, the Central Railways needs to have an extra creation of workforce of gang-men for the fifth and sixth line on Kalyan-Diva rail corridor and Thane-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT)”, Nair said.

At present there are vacancies for 117 motormen, 276 guards, 500  Ticket Collectors. Besides, there are posts vacant for booking clerks too.