Railways recruitment freeze drives safety off the tracks

A dysfunctional railway body, recruitment-freeze and high attrition leaves us with fewer gangmen to look after the railway tracks


Shivani Chaturvedi | August 14, 2010

The gate of the Railway Recruitment Cell (RRC) office is locked, but a board hangs from a tree at the Lajpat Nagar C-Block property housing it. A few construction workers move about. Some renovation work is going on, they inform.

Meanwhile, Jarnail Singh, a security guard at a building, wonders whatever happened of his son's application for a railways group D post. Ironically, the RRC was started four years back in New Delhi to undertake recruitment for the very same group D posts Singh's son is hopeful of.

Looking at the lock, Singh can only sigh. His son is one of the many who spent some Rs 100-125 each to fill and submit forms for the posts - and then never heard from the Cell.

The Railways is quick to shrug-off any onus for the limbo. Manish Tiwari, chief public relations officer  (CPRO) of the Northern Railways offers a discomforting reason - "There's no Railways Recruitment Cell, only a Railway Recruitment Board."

This, after K H Muniyappa, the minister of state for railways, said that RRCs will have to expedite the recruitment of gangmen (Group D employees responsible for tracks maintenance).

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha on August 12, the minister had stated, "To overcome shortage of gangmen on the Railways, instructions have been issued to fill up the posts from amongst eligible compassionate and other appointees on priority. As on 1st April 2009, the total vacancies of gangmen in Railways were 35288.

Occurrence and filling up of vacancies is a continuous process. While a few vacancies are likely to exist in this continuous process at any point of time, the policy of the government is to fill up the vacancies promptly as per procedure. General Managers are empowered to assess the requirement of Group-D staff (now enhanced to Pay Band-1 having Grade Pay of Rs. 1800/- and get the same filled up from time to time by placing indents with Railway Recruitment Cells ."

The officers deputed to the RRC are back at their Baroda House (northern railways office) desks, and why shouldn't they! Railway recruitments being announced few and far between has left them with not much to do at the RRC office.

But the recruitment crunch is pressing on the safety and maintenance wing the most. The Delhi division of the northern railways had 1,263 posts for gangmen vacant while the sanctioned strength was 4,627 in June, 2010. Out of the 3,364 working, most are aged or  otherwise physically unfit for the job. During Lalu Prasad's tenure, the government had tried fixing the shortfall by allowing licensed porters to work as gangmen. More than 1,000 porters of the three important stations of the Delhi division - Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi and Old Delhi - had swapped their coolie's badge for a gangman's tools. But, due to the nature of the job, 200 quit just after joining. Within a few months, most of them had left.

A senior railways officer says that 15 to 20 gangmen quit every month - some choosing voluntary retirement, some under medical grounds. A few more are temporarily indisposed due to injury while being on duty. Further, the division also has to deal with the pressure of manning the 56 unmanned crossings in the city till March 2011.

“Almost 150 people will be required for the purpose and again those working as gangmen will be deployed there due to shortage of staff under gatemen category too. Thus further vacating the posts of gangmen,” says the officer.

“Recently, two passenger train accidents occurred between Shamli and Delhi under Delhi division just because of poor condition of tracks,” he adds.

The unease would probably be too much if you were to think of what the situation will be like across all zones!



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