Railway board has decided to re-engage retired loco pilots on daily remuneration as assistant loco drivers for shunting and on material trains.
This has not amused employees’ unions which have raised concerns about the safety of railway properties as well as passengers. They say it is not advisable to engage senior citizens in loco operation. A letter dated June 4 sent by the director of establishments, railway board, Neerajkumar, to the general managers of Indian Railways stated that the board had decided to permit the concerned authorities to utilize retired train engine drivers not exceeding 65 years of age for shunting operations, excluding movements on the main line, and on departmental trains on which the loco pilot would be assisted by a regular assisted loco pilot.
The letter insisted on complying with medical fitness, training, competency certificate and other terms and conditions for engaging such loco pilots. Railway union functionaries pointed out that the railway minister himself had stated in the Lok Sabha that 61.67% of collisions and derailments during 2000-2015 happened because of the failure of railway staff. That being the reality, what would happen if retired employees were re-engaged in the position, though they would be given lesser responsibilities, they asked. According to available data, though there were 4,789 loco posts in Southern Railway to operate 835 engines, 539 posts had been remaining vacant. Meanwhile, 150 candidates who were recruited as loco pilots were undergoing training.
This apart, RRB had proposed to recruit another 528 loco pilots. “At a time when the Union government has sanctioned Rs 1lakh crore as corpus fund for safety, railway board need not go for engaging retired staff as it involves safety. Shunting will take place in the yard as well as at junctions. Carrying railway materials on the tracks using retired staff is also not desirable”, deputy general secretary of DREU D Manoharan said.