Protesting Station Masters demand ‘Stress Allowance”

Saying their high-pressure jobs make them sick, SMs nationwide want better facilities, more pay and rest.

MUMBAI: All station masters, assistant station masters and deputy station masters of the Indian Railway observed Tuesday as a day of protest and put forth their demand for a range of allowances and facilities.

Wearing protest badges, these railway staffers petitioned to be given allowances for: safety and stress, delays or denials of the modified assured career progression plan, no weekly offs in their intensive rosters, the provision of a second station master at busy stations, and central cabins.

Over 39,000 station masters currently work with the Indian Railway, including over 1,500 in the Mumbai division of Central Railway and Mumbai Central division of Western Railway.

“Nowadays the job of a station master has become very stressful due to heavy workloads,” one station master told. “It has also been observed that, owing to the non-provision of proper accommodation, poor living conditions and long working hours, a number of station masters, assistant station masters (ASM), station superintendents, and deputy station superintendents often fall sick and suffer from hypertension because of increased workloads and working beyond duty hours,” said Dharamver Singh Arora, general secretary of the Station Master Association, Central Railway.

According to Arora, besides performing other duties despite abnormally long working hours during public agitations and other unusual occurrences, station masters are expected to maintain 130 registers, including 37 related to train operations.

“Apart from that, it is also part of our job to ensure safe and punctual train operations; commercial work such as booking parcels, luggage and goods; staff welfare; stores management; inspections and their compliance; medical-related work; co-ordination with other departments, viz. signal and telecommunications, engineering, mechanical, overhead equipment and electrical, as also GRP and RPF; operation of the Public Address System; public dealings; guidelines for passengers; and cleanliness of railway stations and their surroundings,” Arora said.

“Due to the workload, we are unable to properly look after our wards and families, because of which they suffer badly. Many station masters work in sections where trains pass through every 5 or 10 minutes, and in cabins that are interlocked with the Automatic Signaling System. ASMs are required to work around the clock, but are not allowed proper rest, which is not only a serious safety violation, but also puts a lots of pressure on station masters. As a result, most of them suffer from health problems such as hypertension,” said Mithilesh Jha, station master of Dadar, and divisional secretary of the Western Railway’s Mumbai Central Division Station Master Association.

The station masters also felt that especially in acity Mumbai, their job was too hectic. Citing examples, one of them recounted that sometime even a few minutes’ delay in train operations not only became cause for agitation, but led to station masters being manhandled.

When contacted, CR CPRO Sunil Udasi said, “Any such issue is a policy matter and not zonal railway specific. However, in the railways, all job profiles directly involved in the movement of trains are stressful, and station masters cannot be singled out. In fact, technology has come to their aid as station masters are assisted by signal systems that prevent catastrophic human errors. Realising the importance and responsibility of the job, the entry grade has already been raised from Rs 2,400 grade payment to Rs 4,200 grade payment by the Seventh Pay Commission. Further HOER (the Hours of Employment Regulation Act) provides for an intensive roster in place of higher job intensity.”