Railwaymen demand special status in salary structure

Cash-strapped railways may soon have another big headache to contend with. A prominent railway union that met officials of the 7th Pay Commission on Thursday has demanded that railwaymen be categorised ‘differently’ when the commission gets down to finalising the new pay structure.

Why special status?
The reason the union cites is the huge number of deaths and injuries in the line of duty, which according to Western Railway Mazdoor Sangh (WRMS) is second only to the defence forces. WRMS office-bearers, who met Pay Commission chairman AK Mathur and secretary Meena Agarwal in Mumbai, pointed out that between 2007 and 2011, the number of railwaymen killed while on duty was 1,600, and those injured 9,000. Many of those injured have been crippled for life.

Where are the figures from?
They are from the report of the Safety Review Committee headed by Anil Kakodkar, which looked into the ailing railway system and its falling safety standards—safety of both passengers and railway personnel.

Why are rail staff special?
Speaking to dna, JG Mahurkar, general secretary, WRMS, said: “We told the commission that railwaymen deserve a special category like the defence forces. The work we do is arduous, dangerous and round the clock. So equating us with other governmentdepartments on pay structure is unfair. The commission was appreciative and we hope we get special status.”

Why is rail admn worried?
Railway administration is understandably worried. “During the 6th Pay Commission, railways paid the highest amount of (salary) arrears. Railways has the highest workforce under a single management. The amount paid out in 2008 was Rs 74,000 crore, and it bled the railways white,” said a senior official.

What would it cost railways?
Granting special category status would mean another massive pay-out whenever the recommendations of the Pay Commission is implemented, said the official. Railways’ thin finances was highlighted by minister V Sadananda Gowda in his July 8 railway budget speech in which he gave one of the most depressing assessments of railway accounts in recent times. Railways, Gowda told parliament, earned Rs 1,39,558 crore, of which it spent Rs 1,30,321 crore as working expenses in 2013-14 fiscal. Losses are compounded by the fact that thanks to low fares, the loss per-km-per-passenger has increased from 10 paise in 2000-01 to 23 paise in 2012-13.

A dangerous job
On Nov 1, dna front-paged an article on how Central Railway train examiner MA Shaikh died while trying to rectify an electrical fault in a Bandra-CST local. Shaikh, called in to look into the malfunctioning of a train early on Oct 31 morning, fell and had his legs severed when he leaned out of the running train to check if the overhead apparatus was working. The incident occurred close to Dockyard station and Shaikh’s colleagues told dna that such risks were part and parcel of all railway employees. Gangmen and pointsmen, theemployees who walk along the tracks looking for and rectifying faults, remain the most vulnerable with the number of deaths among them being among the highest, said railway union office-bearers.

Figure this
No. railway employees killed between 2007 and 2011: 1,600.
No. railway employees injured between 2007 and 2011: 9,000 (many of those injured have been crippled for life).
Pay-out (arrears) as per Pay Commission recommendations in 2008: Rs 74,000cr.(Railways has the highest workforce in India under a single management).
Amount railways earned in 2013-14: Rs 1,39,558cr.
Amount railways spent in 2013-14: Rs 1,30,321cr.
Loss per-km-per-passenger in 2000-01: 10 paise.
Loss per-km-per-passenger in 2012-13: 23 paise.