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As train toll rises to 21, CR sits on 1,000 key vacancies

Most empty posts are those of gangmen and trackmen, who inspect and maintain tracks, claim unions; a problem with the track is suspected to be one of the key causes of Sunday’s derailment

Even as the death toll in the Diva-Sawantadi passenger express derailment rose to 21 yesterday, railway unions have gone up in arms against the alleged apathy shown by the Central Railway administration in filling up nearly 1,000 vacancies, mainly for the posts of gangmen and trackmen.

Filling up the vacancies for gangmen and trackmen is crucial, since a fault in the track is said to have caused the derailment on Sunday. File pic
Filling up the vacancies for gangmen and trackmen is crucial, since a fault in the track is said to have caused the derailment on Sunday. File pic

The vacancies are particularly galling, as problem with the track is suspected to be one of the main reasons behind Sunday’s accident, and gangmen and trackmen inspect and maintain the tracks. Sources within the unions claim that the railway administration has been ignoring their demand to fill up the vacancies.

“Vacancies for at least 1,000 men, mainly for the posts of gangmen and trackmen, have not been filled by the Central Railway,” said A Mahendroo, of the Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh. Official sources said that there were nearly 2,000 vacancies, which have been partially filled. Union observers, however, claim that the administration has simply lowered the number of vacancies.

“Trackmen and gangmen play a key role in maintaining tracks and they have to ensure that they visit stretches on which trains are supposed to ply, at least once every 24 hours,” said a senior railway official. Sources claimed yesterday that problems with the track and over-speeding could be the reasons behind Sunday’s derailment. “There is a 5-degree sloping curve soon after the tunnel.

The way the coaches have collapsed, it seems that the train was travelling at a high speed,” said a senior official. There is a speed restriction of 55 kmph on the stretch, but sources said that the train may have been travelling at 70 kmph or more. The fact that 150 metres of track was uprooted in the accident lends credence to this theory. The official also said that there may have been a fracture on the track.

Ministerspeak
When mid-day asked Union Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge about the back-to-back accidents, including the January Dehradun Express fire and yesterday’s derailment, he simply said, “We will see what can be done,” and left in his vehicle. During his visit to Sion Hospital, relatives of the injured were asked to stand in a corner away from wards 9 and 3, where the victims were being treated.

The other side
Narendra Patil, Chief PRO, CR, said, “We are filling up the vacant posts for gangmen and trackmen as per the process.”

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