To avoid commuter ire, stationmasters want to ditch uniforms

After frustrated commuters attacked a stationmaster on Tuesday night, the All India Station Masters Association has asked that their uniform be cancelled, as it makes them easy targets when train services are disrupted

With Western Railway (WR) services disrupted since the derailment on Tuesday morning, it is the stationmasters who have had to bear the brunt of commuters’ frustration.

Stationmasters are easily identified by their white shirt and trousers and a tie and cap, but this also makes them targets for commuters looking for someone to blame when train services are disrupted. File pic for representation
Stationmasters are easily identified by their white shirt and trousers and a tie and cap, but this also makes them targets for commuters looking for someone to blame when train services are disrupted. File pic for representation

After one stationmaster was attacked by passengers, the All India Station Masters Association (AISMA) decided the problem was their uniform — As the face of the railways, stationmasters are easily identified by their white shirt and trousers and tie and cap. Because of this, however, they claim they also become easy targets when angry commuters are looking for someone to blame.

Ashok Azad, stationmaster at Vile Parle, later admitted to a railway hospital, was attacked by commuters who were frustrated by the disrupted services following the derailment on Tuesday
Ashok Azad, stationmaster at Vile Parle, later admitted to a railway hospital, was attacked by commuters who were frustrated by the disrupted services following the derailment on Tuesday

Around 40 per cent of WR’s 1,310 services had to be cancelled on September 15, which came down to 25 per cent yesterday. Tempers were flying fast as there was severe crowding at the stations, and most of the trains that were running were fast services, leaving even fewer options for those who wanted to take a slow train.

Around 10.30 pm on Tuesday night, a few commuters surrounded Vile Parle’s station master, Ashok Azad and allegedly manhandled him. Sources said Azad fell on the tracks during the ensuing scuffle and received minor injuries on his chest and abdomen.

“Doctors have asked him to take complete rest,” said his wife. “The people had gone to the stationmaster to ask him to bring in more slow trains, and the railways control room was also called for this purpose. But then he was gheraoed by a few of them,” said Senior PI R Naik of the Andheri GRP.

Shailendra Kumar, WR divisional railway manager confirmed the incident and said: “The stationmaster was gheraoed. Later in the night, stones were also pelted at one of the trains, but no one was injured.” The situation improved later, as more trains began to run gradually.

However, the men in white now plan to send a memorandum to the railway administration to ask that their uniform be discontinued. “Uniforms are issued to all categories of employees, but since we are the face of the railways, we are made to wear our uniform.

But during such incidents, our uniform makes us an easy target for angry commuters. Either the administration should make everyone wear their uniform or even we don’t want to wear it,” said Sashidhar, divisional secretary of AISMA.

Not everyone agrees with this conclusion though. A stationmaster, who did not wish to be named, said, “It is our job to face commuters and deal with them tactfully every time. Removing the uniform is not the solution.” The stationmasters’ association has also asked for protection from the railway police during such events.

Long night for WR
WR worked well into Wednesday morning to repair the damaged track. They had to weld the damaged track from under the derailed coach. There were nearly 100 metal clips – which hold the tracks and sleepers – that were seen with damage marks.

One coach had jumped from the Up line to the Down line and was severely damaged, as the axles had come off. By 2.30 am, a 140-tonne crane had to be brought in from Kurla to move the coach as it could not be moved by hydraulic jacks.

By 6 am, the coach was removed to the side, by the Parle biscuit factory and repairs of the tracks and of the overhead cables began. Finally at 8.30 am, the Up (fast) line was opened for service, although several trains were cancelled while others were running 30 minutes late.

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