Railways play the blame game with employees
Posted on: 19 Aug 2010
Majority of probes on accidents blame the employees or is termed a conspiracy. The organization of railway employees allege that in some instances if the onus can’t be placed on the employees, the railways shift the blame to conspiracy.
Like the loco pilots, the station masters too have a major role to play. They have to regulate the running of trains through a panel. It is the station master who gives instructions to loco pilots on which platform the train has to be stopped. As per the railway manual, the station master must monitor the whole activities through the panel. He has to ensure that the train leaves the station in a good condition by checking the brake system, axle and for any other discrepancies.
He also need to give instructions to close or open the gates of the level crossings which comes under his purview. At present there are 30 to 35 trains passing through each station on a single day. Single line had become double lines. There would be 7 or 8 level crossings under each station master. More time would be needed to give instructions to close or open the gates. When the station master is engaged in this, where would he find time to check the panel. Added to all these, in some small stations the station masters are given additional job of issuing tickets too.
An order issued in 2002 by the railway board had sought appointment of additional station masters in all stations with centralised panel, double line and in stations having single line with maximum capacity exceeding 85%. But this was not implemented yet.
When disaster strikes, the investigation commission would first quiz the station master and question him if he had checked the panel or not. The Commission would in no way accept the explanation that they were engaged in issuing tickets or giving instructions to gate men, punishing them in the end.
It was in 2002 that a train hit a school van at the Punnel level crossing in Thalassery. The gateman was dismissed from service. Though the Thalassery station master was also dismissed, he rejoined duty after a legal battle. But a criminal case is still pending.
There are 7 level crossings in Thalassery. The level cross at Punnel is non-interlocked. The gateman told the commission that the station master had not informed him about the arrival of two trains at the same time. He opened the gate after the first train passed. The school van was hit by the second train and the van driver killed.
If the gate had an interlocking facility, the accident would have been averted. The vehicle had to stop there even if the gates are not closed. Within months of the accident at Punnel, the level cross was interlocked. There are many level crossings without interlocking faculty. Such level crossings are tantamount to unmanned level crossing.
As per railway rule the uninterlocked level crossings must be closed all the time. This too is an age-old rule. If a vehicle has to pass, the driver should get special permission from the gateman. There are many without interlocking systems and the railway official knows that as per the rules this can’t be opened or closed frequently as large number of vehicles keep plying through each gate.