The major cause of train accidents are the rail off tracks, drunk drivers throw rail off tracks.Sources said a number of drivers drink while on duty because of long hours, especially during the night.
Alarm bells are ringing for the ‘tipsyturvy’ Indian Railways. Identifying alcoholism as a major cause of accidents, railway board’s new boss Ashwani Lohani has warned train crew as well as other staffers from consuming liquor while on duty. Besides, he has also cracked down on corruption and sexual harassment at workplace, sending a strong message to all railway employees.
Faced with the onerous task of bringing down accidents and improving punctuality and hygiene on trains, Lohani has listed out his priorities in order to strengthen the organisation and improve its functioning.
“I have always believed in the supremacy of the human resource. For me, my employees, and not the customers, come first. But at the same time we have to deal with corruption, sexual harassment at workplace and alcohol abuse while on duty. These are social evils and need to be dealt with iron hand,” Lohani said in a letter addressed to the railway employees.
Sources said a number of drivers drink while on duty because of long hours, especially during the night. They said at least 15 to 20 per cent of loco pilots fail the breathalyser test. Officials said there is no upper limit in the railways rulebook on the number of night duties to be done by the engine crew despite data from major rail accidents pointing to the fact that most mishaps take place between late night and early morning.
Nearly 350 rail accidents took place since 2015 when Suresh Prabhu became the railway minister. After back-to-back derailments this month, the top hierarchy of the Indian Railways went for a spin. Former chairman of railway board A K Mital had to quit and Prabhu too offered his resignation.
This was followed by Lohani’s appointment as the administrative head of the railways.
A railway official of Delhi Division said a number of loco pilots and co-pilots turn up for duty under the influence of liquor. However, train drivers tend to justify the same saying they are forced to drink because of overstress. “Most of these loco-pilots showed up for work drunk. This trend came to light after many of them failed the alcohol test. This is a clear indication that these drunk drivers put thousands of lives at risk,” the official said.
RISING TREND OF ALCOHOLISM
Railway rules say every loco pilot must undergo a breathalyser test while signing on and signing off duty. Failing a test can lead to removal from service, though most offenders are let off with temporary removal from rosters or denial of increments. Even statistics of the Indian Railways claims that more than 800 railway crew members have been penalised since 2014 for violation of rules. A top railway ministry official said 662 railway staff were penalised while 147 were summarily dismissed from service.
Railway sources also blamed the rising trend of alcoholism on the shortage of running staff. They said at least 20 to 30 per cent posts of drivers and co-drivers are lying vacant in almost all 16 zones of the Indian Railways. Shortage of staff means longer duty hours for the existing workforce.
“I expect all railway men to work for welfare of the employees and restrain from indulging in any frills such as gifts, celebration and excessive protocol as these divert our attention from the core responsibilities,” Lohani wrote