The railways’ decision to do away with 40 posts of station masters in the Thiruvananthapuram division has kicked up a storm in various quarters. According to recognised trade unions, the division is already reeling under acute shortage of station masters.
“There is a deficit of 70 station master posts in the division. Many posts are lying vacant as a lot of station masters have retired and the division has failed to make new appointments. Such decisions have been taken to favour senior officials,” Southern Railways Mazdoor Union (SRMU) members alleged. The order to scrap the posts was passed on Thursday. According to the members, a few years ago, the railways had sanctioned the move to increase posts keeping in mind the need for station masters in the railways. Station masters said due to inadequate employees in some stations, a station master sometimes has to work for 48 hours at a stretch. “Tasks like issue of tickets and controlling the station along with manning the trains fall on the station masters in some stations,” SRMU divisional president P Unnikrishnan said. Recently, the planning branch section of the railways at the headquarters level had conducted a study to survey the situation. They had to identify necessary and redundant posts. “We have learned that the study was conducted in 28 stations across the country. Of this, only two or three small stations in Kerala were surveyed. To decide that the post of a station master is not mandatory in a state like Kerala is bogus. They have not looked at the larger picture,” Unnikrishnan said.
The unions put the blame on the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM). “He has the power to recommend axing of posts or appointments. But he is not willing to do so for his own selfish reasons,” the members alleged. On Friday, the SRMU along with the Station Masters Council and the All- India Station Masters Association staged a strike in front of the station masters’ office at the Ernakulam junction station. Unnikrishnan has threatened of agitations if the authorities take major decisions like scrapping away of station masters’ posts without consulting recognised trade unions of the division.