‘Eyewash’ says union; calls for new jobs for better services

Year after year, hundreds of new trains are introduced, but the number of employees handling these increased services has been declining, with 2.1 lakh unfilled vacancies till last year, including 90,000 related to safety alone, according to official figures.

Now, with pressure mounting on better services after the fare hikes, the Indian Railways has finally announced that it will fill up 1.52 lakh vacancies this year to add to the “family” of 14 lakh Railway employees across the country.

Of these 1.52 lakh vacancies, 47,000 will be filled by the Scheduled Caste and Tribes and the physically challenged, Rail Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal announced on Tuesday.

But, the railway unions are not cheering.

Harbhajan Singh, Assistant General Secretary, All India Railwaymen’s Federation, said, “This is just eyewash. There will be about one lakh retirements this year. So, it will be back to square one. As of now, there are 2.4 lakh vacancies in the safety category alone.”

What the unions have been demanding is creation of new jobs. After all, hundreds of new trains each year and world class stations need to be manned, too, he told Business Line.

Eradicating manual scavenging

Also, as the Railways embark on the journey to modernise its services, there is one blot that it first needs to wipe off its face – the heinous practice of using cheap manual scavengers for clearing human excreta on the tracks.

While the Railways claimed that it had stopped the practice, a PIL has challenged this by submitting evidence in court.

With more trains, world class stations and new tracks in the pipeline, a ‘modern;’ sector like the Railways needs to take concrete steps to eradicate this inhuman practice, with proper rehabilitation of liberated manual scavengers, said the Forum Against Manual Scavenging.

aditi.n@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 26, 2013)
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