Transport workers on the job run out of food, cash

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on March 26, 2020

The lock-down announcement has left Railway workers, truck drivers stranded far from home

Despite governmental efforts to the contrary, certain sections of people are slipping off the welfare map.

With the lock-down set to be in place till April 14, employees of Indian Railways (IR) posted in trains, contractual workers whose work has come to a stop, drivers on the road, many of whom are not on formal rolls, are finding themselves stranded.

For instance, there are staff stuck in trains that arrived at Delhi, but are unable to go back because the service has been stopped. Every empty train has some staff including safai karamcharis, who are on contract, plus those engaged in carriage and wagon and air-conditioner maintenance, among others.

“They are supposed to be with the train. Now, they have run out of money. The union has made arrangements for food for some people,” SN Malik, Central President, Uttariya Railway Mazdoor Union, told BusinessLine.

Also hit hard by the lock-down are railway track maintainers. Their work hours should be staggered and they must be provided with face masks, paper towels and sanitisers, said National Federation of Indian Railwaymen's General Secretary M Raghavaiah.

It is feared that even if a government cash transfer scheme is implemented, it may not reach workers who do not have any social security net, given that many are not even on the rolls of contractors.

Discrepancy in numbers

For instance, while the IR has announced that it will pay its contractors based on the number of people hired, there are gaps between its current official estimates on the number of contract workers, and the information it shared in Parliament about a year ago.

It had informed Parliament that it had 90,000 contract workers as of January 2018. On Tuesday, it estimated that about 50,000 workers will benefit by its decision to pay contractors on the premise that they are on duty till March 31 despite the lock-down. A union leader told BusinessLine that the practice of showing fewer workers on the rolls is rampant. The Comptroller and Auditor General had flagged that it could not access the data, the union leader said.

Similarly, in the roads sector, counting the number of drivers, many of whom are not on the rolls of any transport company, is posing a challenge, according to SP Singh of the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training.

Published on March 26, 2020

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