Railway Board suspends breathalyser tests, biometric attendance for motormen and loco pilots

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on March 27, 2020

Directs use of manual systems to mark attendance; breathalyser tests suspended till April 14

The Railway Board on Friday finally gave in to the demand of motormen and loco pilots to suspending breathalyser tests and biometric-based attendance machines across the country. In a letter to the General Managers of all 17 railway zones, it has directed the use of manual systems to mark attendance and discontinue the use of breathalysers until April 14.

There are 73,000 loco pilots and local-train motormen in Indian Railways and their associations had accused the Rail Ministry of neglecting their health and ignoring the danger of the coronavirus being spread through the use of breathalysers to check the alcohol level in the body. The biometric-based Crew Management System (CMS) machines are used for attendance and other office purposes -- motormen or loco pilots have to log in or out at the commencement and completion of a trip by touching the screen on the kiosk.

Dinkar S Koparkar, the Central Zone Secretary of the All India Loco Running Staff Association, said that the breathalyser is next to the CMS machine in the same kiosk. Both the machines get used multiple times in an hour. Many personnel could have been exposed to the virus due to the use of these machines.

A senior motorman with the Central Railway said that the demand has been met after much delay. Today when local and passenger train traffic has stopped and only goods traffic is plying the Railway Board has issued the order.

The letter by the Railway Board, which has been reviewed by BusinessLine, said that the relaxation is for breathalyser tests to be done for crew operating freight trains. It has also said that personnel with a known history of alcoholism will continue to undergo the breathalyser test. A self-declaration instead of the test has to be made each time a loco pilot commences and completes his duty. Instead of biometric attendance, manual registers will be used. However, the loco pilots will be subjected to surprise checks by breathalyser machines.

Koparkar said that only a three-inch straw is provided to blow into the breathalyser machine. Half of the straw goes into the machine and the other half into the mouth of the loco pilot. During this coronavirus pandemic, the machines are a hazard to the pilots, he pointed out.

Published on March 27, 2020

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