The increasing number of vacancies in the posts of station masters poses a grave danger to the safety of Railways and its services, said office-bearers of the All India Station Masters Association during a hunger strike by the Chennai division of the association on Tuesday.
The association claimed that the Chennai division of the Southern Railways had 190 vacancies among the 928 positions as of December 2012.
There will be a further increase of 45 vacancies by next year by way of retirement, said John Vincent Kumar, national president of the All India Station Masters Association.
“These huge vacancies will have a direct bearing on the functioning and safety of the Railways. As per norms, station masters are to work only for eight hours in normal areas and six hours in high intensity areas owing to the stress levels involved. But as of now, most of us are forced to work for 12 hours at a stretch, and even a weekly day off is denied to us. This will affect the station masters and their ability to ensure the proper safety to the passengers,” he said.
The station masters also alleged that this year, the number of summer special trains was reduced by 10 per cent owing to shortage of drivers and station masters.
“The Central Government has put a blanket ban on government recruitments. Though drivers, station masters and guards are excluded from this, the government continues to follow the same policy here too,” claimed N Shanmughasundaram, president of the Chennai division of the All India Station Masters Association.
The association pointed out that the largescale vacancy was a result of the mass recruitment that had taken place in the late 1970s and early 80s.
“That whole batch is retiring in the next few years and this would lead to mass vacancies.
“If the government does not take proactive steps to fill the vacancies, it will lead to multiple problems,” said Shanmughasundaram.
The union demanded that the Railway Board relax recruitment processes to facilitate filling up of vacancies and also to create a body on the lines of the employment exchange to meet the current crisis of mass retirements.