The incident of rail derailments have become quite common these days with the latest case of Hirakhand Express derailment that comes in close chain to at least four similar train accidents across the country in the recent past. Just a week ago, a goods train derailed at Wihirgaon station on Kazipet-Balharshah section of South Central Railway. It led to a major disturbance of train movement on the significant trunk route.
While authorities are busy finding the reasons of Saturday’s train mishap, the fifth in the last 6 months, it has become clear that a large number of posts for safety officers are vacate. Notably, in the East Coast Railway sector, where the accident took place, there is a 24 per cent vacancy in safety official roles, as maintained by the records of East Coast Railway.
In the meantime, 1.42 lakh posts for safety staff remain vacant across the country. As per the experts, it is a major concern and clear case of official apathy.
“The pressure on crucial safety staff has remained very high over the years and this has also been pointed out in various internal reports over the years. Not only are there huge vacancies but the existing staff work under sub-standard conditions. While higher-ups in the ministry might be awaiting the assistance of technology before filling vacant posts, the automated anti-collision device tested previously does not seem very promising. The posts need to be filled up immediately,” said a retired senior official from SCR, as per a report in TOI.
Significantly, there are just 4,827 filled posts against a sanctioned strength of 6,398 engineering staff posts. Rest 1,571 posts are vacant in the East Coast Railway.
Apart from that, 67 posts in security, 93 in signal and telecom, and 613 in electrical local running are unoccupied as indicated by details from the Railway Board.
“With such high vacancies in critical posts, mishaps are bound to happen. Engineering staff, signalling staff, and even loco pilots are frequently working 20- 24 hours straight due to vacant positions. Even SCR zone has over 10,000 vacancies in safety staff,” said K Shivakumar, divisional secretary, SCR Mazdoor Union.