According to information obtained from the Ministry, the railway zones comprising Southern, South Central, South Eastern, South-East Central and South Western have the highest number of vacancies in the category, at 44,647
The Indian Railways is grappling with manpower shortages. There are 1,42,311 posts lying vacant in the safety category with the South Western Railways (SWR) requiring 2,753 employees.
The existing employees are being overworked, putting in up to 14 hours a day. SWR jurisdiction covers most of Karnataka.
Preliminary investigations into the fire accident involving the Bangalore-Nanded Express may point at an accidental short-circuit but it also accentuates the need for frontline safety staff to assure a safer journey for passengers.
Stating that committees have been set up to hire personnel, senior Railway officials said the ministry has also put in place measures to take care of existing employees.
Vice-president of All India Railwaymen’s Federation Venu P Nair said, “There needs to be a faster approach to this. About 250 people superannuate from the Indian Railways every month. So the vacancies are going up but the hiring isn’t happening at the required pace.”
Stating that the safety category employees are the frontline of railways especially in departments like loco-running, operations and management and even maintenance, he said the vacancies mean additional work for existing employees who are struggling to cope with the pressure.
Conceding there is a problem, another senior official said, “A high-level committee of the Railway Board chaired by D P Tripathi (former secretary, ministry of food processing industries) was mandated to look into two broad issues — hours of employment of running staff and review of safety categories staff. The committee submitted its report in last August.”
The running and safety staff are directly responsible for safe and orderly train operations and their concerns are a matter of high priority for railway management. But all recommendations of the committee are just on paper, Nair said.
Employees in these categories are made to work up to 14 hours a day. Labour unions have been demanding that this be reduced to eight hours a day and 48 hours a week but in vain.
According to information obtained from the ministry of railways the Southern Division comprising Southern, South Central, South Eastern, South-East Central and South Western have the highest number of vacancies in the category, at 44,647.
The North Division (Northern, North Central, North Eastern, North Frontier and North Western) needs 35,494 employees and the East Division (Eastern, East Central and East Coast) requires 33,713 employees.
The Western Division (Western and West Central) is short of 17,188 people while the Central Division needs 11,259 people.