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Unions scoff at rlys' claim of surplus locomotive pilots

NEW DELHI: Though railways has blamed drivers of the goods train for Monday's accident near Guna in Madhya Pradesh, the incident has once again exposed the glaring negligence in safety measures, including a large number of vacancies for locomotive pilots.
Railways is facing an acute shortage of loco pilots, and the situation is likely to worsen as the recruitment drive to fill vacancies was derailed due to a paper leak, involving the chairman of Railway Recruitment Board, Mumbai.
As per the ministry's record, there are 7,190 vacancies of loco pilots, and 89,024 in safety categories in zonal railways as on April 1, 2009.
Despite the fact that several new trains are being introduced every year, leading to an increase in rail traffic, the vacancies of loco drivers are yet to be filled for reasons best known to the authorities concerned.
Surprisingly, rail officials have been in denial about shortage of loco pilots. They maintain that there is a surplus of drivers.
An official maintained that railways sanctioned 30% additional posts of drivers against the actual requirement while factoring in leave, training and other contingencies.
The official claimed that railways has 63,000 dricers on rolls even though the requirement is for 60,000, adding that other backlog for sanctioned posts will also be filled up soon.
But railway drivers' unions has scoffed at this assertion. They argued that most of the loco pilots are fatigued due to acute staff crunch.
Indian Railway Loco Running Men Organisation (IRLRO) alleged that more than 3,000 drivers are being assigned petty clerical or personal assistance jobs.
To bolster its claim, IRLRO furnished a list of 50 drivers in Delhi division alone, who are made to work as personal staff of senior rail officials.
Sanjay Kumar Pandhi, working president, IRLRO, pegged the shoratge of loco pilots at 35%.
The unions claim that there are many grey areas in the working conditions. For instance, there are no provision to take compulsory weekly or periodical off, no break during duty hours and no cut-off time for night duties for drivers.
There have been instances where drivers have worked even upto 24 hours, while duty hours between 10 hours and 18 hours are routine, the union claimed.

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