The meet at Mumbai Central on how to tackle railway accidents
The meet at Mumbai Central on how to tackle railway accidents

9 am, Friday: A rail fracture between Goregaon and Malad disrupts train services for one-and-a-half hours.

10 am, Friday: A national-level ‘safety meet’ begins at Mumbai Central to address above-mentioned failures.

Instead of a solution, the meeting, however, showed the fracture between the administration and the railway unions.

From the top
General manager of Central and Western Railways DK Sharma accepted that in the last few days there have been incidents on the suburban network that need to be looked into.

“Railways is the safest mode of transport, but then, we have been facing issues and we need to accept that. Hence, we can’t adopt shortcuts, especially while addressing technical problems involving tracks and rolling stock. The minutest of mistake could lead to a disaster. You (rail employees) work responsibly and with sincerity, and so, whenever you feel there is a need to replace rail assets, please go ahead without compromising on safety,” said Sharma, addressing the gathering of employees.

Bottom line
The usage of ‘shortcut’ didn’t seem to go down well with the staff. Before Sharma’s address, senior union leader JG Mahurkar had spoken about the issues hampering the railways and leading to problems in thorough maintenance of rail assets.

Mahurkar, general secretary of Western Railway Mazdoor Sangh, said: “Years ago, there were 18 lakh people working with the railways. Now, the number of trains has increased and the staff strength has decreased to 13 lakh. People are working under stress and duress due to which they are suffering from high blood pressure and other ailments. We had written to the Railway Board for filling up vacant posts, but the letter has been gathering dust for the last two months now.”

Back and forth
Other officers from the railway administration came onto the dais and spoke about past accidents, which, they said, happened due to the carelessness of staff.

Dr M Raghavaiah, general secretary, National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR), then retorted, “There are 2.5 lakh vacancies, out of which 1.5 lakh are of posts for those who look after the safety aspect. The Railway Board isn’t filling up these posts and the administration is blaming us for not maintaining it properly.”

Railway officers, on the other hand, claimed that they direct their staff to go for training but the employees themselves skip it. “Without time-to-time knowledge and skill upgrade, it is difficult to maintain the system,” said a senior WR official.

NFIR’s R Bhatnagar said: “The railways should ideally pay double allowance to our men. The administration is not filling up posts, and that’s causing unnecessary health and other problems among the employees.”

This meet came at a time when there was a derailment at GTB Nagar station earlier this week.