Agartala: As a precursor to removing all the 10,440 unmanned level crossings across the country by 2020, a beginning is being made in Assam by deploying a 'gate mitras' - literally friend at the gate - at six such places in Assam to bring down accidents, an official said.
"Assam's Tinsukia division of Northeast Frontier Railway NFR has recently deployed gate Mitras at six UMLC gates to ensure safety of road uses. Gradually gate mitras would be deployed at other places in the northeastern states," NFR chief public relations officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma told IANS.
"To avoid accidents, gate mitras have been deployed at such UMLCs where the road traffic is high and there are apprehensions of mishaps," he added.
The gate Mitras would be paid Rs.7,000 to Rs.10,000 per month. They would stay at a nearby railway station or a government building and would be provided a schedule as to when they should be at the crossing. The railways would provide them with a uniform, alongwith a high-power light, a flag and a whistle to eanble them warn oncoming road traffic of an approaching train.
Selection of gate mitras would be through outsourcing from manpower providers, the official said.
Sharma said the gate mitras are primarily meant to counsel road users to be vigilant while crossing UMLCs. To this end, they would also distribute safety pamphlets.
"The idea is to put in place a mechanism before all UMLCs are eventually converted into either manned gates, limited height subways or road over bridges depending on the feasibility," he added.
The official said that normally caution boards are also erected on both sides of the UMLCs to alert road-users. Speed breakers are also provided on both approaches. Drivers of passing trains are mandated to sound a loud continuous whistle while approaching UMLCs.
"However it is seen that accidents do occur when road users fail to be alert while crossing the railway track. The gate mitras would counsel people to be alert and to educate them to gauge the speed of the trains so that they do not take unnecessary risks while crossing the railway track," Sharma added.
"This initiative of NFR is expected to go a long way in minimising accidents at UMLCs," he added.
Mishaps at UMLCs have been claiming many lives over the years. Of the 29,487 level crossings across the country, 19,047 are manned and 10,440 are unmanned.