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The Indian Railways are one of the largest railway networks in the world, running more than 14,000 trains daily including 8500 passenger carrying trains on about 64,000 route Kms. These trains pass through several bridges, culverts, curves, tunnels, remote and very difficult areas. Looking to the volume of traffic handled by the Indian Railways, the safety record cannot be taken as a startling situation.

Major accidents involving passenger trains, when occur at short intervals; create excited state for the press, parliament and public at large. In the recent past some of the accidents of passenger trains caused concern but these accidents cannot be taken to mean that consciousness towards safety in train operations and efficiency amongst the Railwaymen has been deteriorated.

The Railway employees are the most dedicated and duty conscious personnel. They are equally concerned over accidents. When they hear about the rail accident, they develop a sense of guilt although the accident might not have occurred due to human failure.

National Federation of Indian Railwaymen being a responsible Federation of Railwaymen has all along been making efforts for inculcating greater safety consciousness among Railwaymen and motivates them to work with high degree of discipline and run the services without compromising on safety. The Federation has been organising Seminars, Workshops and Conventions at different levels with an aim for not only minimising the rail accidents on account of failure of human element but also achieving the goal of zero accident.

A National Seminar on "Safety of Railway track-Role of Machines and Manpower in Track Maintenance" was held NFIR at New Delhi on 28th May, 2002, wherein the Railway Minister accompanied by C.R.B. and Railway Board members have participated and addressed the Seminar. Over 900 Delegates drawn from different parts of Indian Railways have attended the Seminar. Among them, many made presentations highlighting the deficiencies and adverse working conditions faced by the staff connected with permanent way and Track Machines.


The Railway Minister presented “THE WHITE PAPER ON SAFETY ON THE INDIAN RAILWAYS” in the Parliament during April, 2003 offering a review of safety performance of the Indian Railways, in terms of accidents occurring on the system during the last 40 years, with a specific reference to the previous decade. The highlights of the paper revolved around modernisation of infrastructure viz., track, bridges, rolling stock etc., and examination of the role of ‘Human Element’, especially that of ‘Human Error’ causing accidents. It had also gone into issues related to accident inquiry, fixing up of responsibility and recommendations made by various inquiry Committees and Commissions. The document had also raised certain vital issues, for which public response was sought to facilitate resolving the issues.


As a follow up to the presentation of White Paper on Rail Safety, Ministry of Railways initiated a two-day National Workshop on Safety on Indian Railways at New Delhi on 12 th and 13 th July, 2003 inviting the employees belonging to various safety categories particularly Drivers, Asst. Drivers, Guards, Station Masters, Gang men, Points men, Section Engineers belonging to Signal, Mechanical, Civil Engineering Departments, Signal Maintainers, Technicians of Maintenance Departments, Trackmen, etc., and representatives from all recognized Federations/Associations in the Industry. In the Workshop, various aspects of working, shortcomings and deficiencies in the system were comprehensively deliberated in the midst of General Managers of Zonal Railways, Production Units and Railway Board Members including Chairman. 22 representatives of NFIR have spoken in the Workshop and highlighted various deficiencies in the system, shortage of staff, inadequate training etc., The Minister for Railways heard the participants throughout and took note of various suggestions and made announcement as given hereunder in brief: ­

1. With view to effect improvement in Safety related training, the training facilities at all training centres including Basic Training Schools will be suitably upgraded. Works in this regard will be sanctioned out of turn.
2. Condition of running rooms and crew lobbies will be improved on urgency basis. A Committee will be set up to recommend the details of work to be done in this regard and the same will be sanctioned out of turn.
3. With a view to ensure reasonable quality of items procured by the Railways, concept of “Life Cycle Cost” will be adopted wherever possible.
4. All Safety Category vacancies will be filled on urgency basis.
5. Posts required for maintenance of rakes in Coaching Complex, in context of introduction of new trains (year 2003-04 and onwards), will be created on the lines as done for the crews by way of periodic review.
6. Immediate action will be taken to provide protective gears and implements viz. boots, barsaati, torch, retro reflective garments, etc. as per need to Railway employees working on or near the track.
7. Gang men and Drivers with age between 50 to 57 years will be given option to seek voluntary retirement in which case one of his wards will be given appointment on Compassionate Ground.


The Corporate Safety Plan of Indian Railways (2003-2004) was brought out by Ministry during August, 2003, duly taking into consideration the recommendations of the Railway Safety Review Committee (1998) and various other factors like technological inputs, work culture, managerial focus and required investments, etc., and also the suggestions made in the National Workshop and placed before the Parliament by the Railway Minister. This document encompasses the priorities of the safety related works and indicates a broad time frame to complete them along with assessed approximate requirement of financial investments. While the endeavour is to minimize fatalities in accidents, the plan objectives can be treated as an intermediate stage in our efforts to realize a vision of accident free and casualty-free IR system. The document also envisages safety action plan directed towards continuous reduction in risk level to its customers, implementation of suggested system reforms, imbibing better safety culture, enhancement of asset reliability etc. This covers continuous rehabilitation and modernisation of assets, qualitative changes in men and machines, induction of appropriate technologies in support of human efforts. Funds requirement for safety enhancement works outlined in the Corporate Safety Plan is Rs. 31,835 crores, which includes funds already available under Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF) and Railway Safety Fund (RSF).


In addition to the above, the Railway Ministry launched Rail Safety Samvads at various centres in Zonal Railways in three phases with a team consisting representatives of the recognised Federations of Employees, Officers and RPF and the Board Members led by Minister himself with a view to interacting with the grass root level employees belonging to safety categories down the line.

From the above exercises, the Railway Ministry, no doubt, got sufficient inputs particularly with regard to shortcomings and deficiencies in the system in particular and human element in general, from the grass root level workers related to safety categories.


The aim and purpose of the event was one of self-introspections on accident front and to respond to disasters. NFIR took matchless initiative for the first time in its history to reach thousands of the grass root workers bringing out the deficiencies and shortcomings in the Railway System through them as an eye opener to the Railway Administration, who should spontaneously provide remedial steps, with a view to rendering accident-free services by Railwaymen through the Akhil Bharatiya Rail Sanraksha Maha Sammelan at Secunderabad on 20 th October, 2003 in coordination with its affiliate viz South Central Railway Employees Sangh. Over 11000 delegates belonging to safety categories at a field and grass root level from all the Zonal Railways and Production Units have participated in the Akhil Bharatiya Rail Sanraksha Maha Sammelan. NFIR pledged in the Sammelan to continue to make ceaseless efforts for motivating all Railway employees to discharge their functions with greater vigil and concentration, so that Rail accidents due to human error are prevented and at the same time the Federation wanted the Ministry of Railways to give serious consideration over the points brought in the Maha Sammelan for effective redressal. Railway Minister, CRB, Board Members, etc., have partipated in the Maha Sammelan.

From the above Sammelan, the Railway Ministry, no doubt, got sufficient inputs with regard to shortcomings and deficiencies in the system in particular and human element in general, from the grass root level workers related to safety categories.

Consequent upon having interactions with all the grass root level workers related to rail safety and train running duties, the NFIR analysed the basic ingredients required for safe running and listed out the following for implementation:

1. The Rail failures/fractures are on the increase, causing ‘Safety Hazards’. In spite of upgradation of technology, the failures have not come down. This needs to be investigated, as otherwise, safety standards may deteriorate.
2. Rail welds are being done between trains leading to permanent defects on account of trains being passed on hot welds. (In CITU welding of rails needs 75 minutes line block).
3. On the aspect of human failure, impartial assessment is necessary to be done in order to know whether the human failure was on account of poor track standards, inadequate brake power, defective maintenance of rolling stock or failure of equipment or on account of bona fide error. It is easy to say about human failure overlooking lack of other ingredients which may cause or force human failure, mainly in the case of safety categories. There is also need for identifying the causes which lead to the lapses on the part of workforce, instead putting blame on human element and forgetting the causes.
4. Accident statistics are doctored. This manipulation of accident statistics is with a sole purpose to show better performance than their predecessors.
5. The heart of the safety system is the human being and unless railway management focuses on creating a climate of safety based on the knowledge, competence, discipline and ethical conduct, there can be little sustained improvement in safety.
6. Keeping thousands of vacancies in ‘Safety categories’, is it really possible to ensure Rail Safety? Why at the level crossings which have been classified or converted as manned ones are not provided sanctioned posts? How long the present ad hoc-ism continues? The management should have self-introspection on these vital factors and take quick corrective measures.
7. It is important for the health and safety of the system that the running staff is provided with the best in terms of emoluments, working conditions, uniforms and basic amenities, etc.
8. The need of the hour is to provide qualitative training to all workforce not only at induction stage but also at every stage of promotion without exception and re-introduction of viva-voce test as part of recruitment process through Railway Recruitment Boards for selecting talented skilful candidates iS necessary.
9. Training to be effective – the minimum grade of the instructor should be Rs.6500-10500 and the tenure should be 10 years to lure services of experienced personnel.
10. Trainees should be provided with good accommodation and free food in the Training Centres.
11. Model Rooms in the Training Centres are not up to the standard. Model Room concerning Electric Traction are not available in Training Centres. These are needed to be taken care of.
12. Training Centres should be upgraded and simulators also are to be provided.
13. The safety cannot be achieved by just teaching rule position. Psychological change must come. The vision must change, level of commitment must undergo change.
14. The present policy of creation of posts needs review, facilitating creation of new posts in safety categories for the maintenance of new services/assets without matching surrender.
15. Motivation of Railway staff is very important.
16. Duty hours of Gatemen are to be reduced from 12 hours to 8 hours.
17. Safety related Voluntary Retirement Scheme should be extended to other safety categories.
18. Advance Action Plan for filling up of vacancies related to safety categories is to be drawn up on priority and implemented on a time bound manner. G.Ms should be empowered for inducting the candidates against Group ‘D’ Safety Category vacancies up to the extent of 20% particularly in those categories where the vacancies are very high in number causing safety hazard. Course completed Act Apprentices be inducted as substitutes of Gp ‘D’ in Technical Departments as and when heavy shortage is found in those Departments.
19. Promotion of staff, their increments, night duty allowance, overtime allowance, etc., should be granted without loss of time. Personnel Department should be made accountable for any failure.
20. Officers should be given special training, so as to see that they operate as facilitators and their ACRs should reflect their behavioural approach towards staff.
21. Loco Cabs should be made driver friendly.
22. Infrastructure facilities for maintenance of Coaching Stock existing at present are totally inadequate. Even the lighting facilities provided for undergear examination are insufficient. Rolling stock examination in the face of these inadequacies contributes for unsafe situation.
23. Many rake links are so drawn that their primary maintenance is always during night time. The rake links are to be so revised that every such rake should have Day time Primary maintenance at least once in 3 trips.
24. Running Rooms should be brought to the standard of THREE STAR HOTEL.
25. Adequate facilities should be ensured in Crew Lobbies.
26. Staff should not be forced to adopt short-cut methods during abnormal situations.
27. Existing rules should be reviewed and those, which are not practical for implementation should be done away with.
28. Joint patrolling of track by Trackmen and RPF personnel should be organized regularly.
29. Running staff should be treated as ‘Intensive’ category and six hours duty be prescribed, preferably to those working on high speed trains.
30. Essential Intermittent duty roster to SMs/ASMs/Pointsmen, etc., should be abolished.
31. Better communication facilities should be provided at Stations, Level Crossing, Tracks.
32. Accident enquiry reports should be in the nature of fact finding and not fault finding. The reports should be published and discussed with the organised labour.
33. Panel inter-locking, solid state interlocking, etc., to be provided with computer based information at stations where man-machine expertise is used.
34. Safety gadgets like track circuit/axle counter, panel inter-locking/RRI, block providing axle counter are to be extensively used for safety.
35. Where centralised Panel inter-locking system is provided in the Stations, the second ASM Post is a dire necessity and should be provided forthwith.
36. Mini-Operation theatre facility should be provided in the AMBULANCES.
37. Seven days’ continuous night duty to Safety Staff be stopped forthwith.
38. All required equipment should be in-built in the Brake vans/SLRS.
39. Four-wheeler brake vans be weeded out.
40. Drivers are not made to carry their personal equipment and Line Boxes hitherto in use by Drivers should not be discontinued.
41. Cannibalisation of fittings should be discouraged under any circumstances.
42. Trains should not be worked without valid brake power certificate.
43. Welding of rails by the contractors should be dispensed with and experienced, technically qualified and retired Railway employees may be entrusted with this job.
44. Gatemen are working under difficult conditions. Minimum facilities of drinking water, electricity are not provided. These facilities should be provided.
45. Departmentalism in Railway is causing set back to efficiency. This should be got eradicated by taking appropriate measures at higher level.
46. Mail/Express Drivers and Guards Links are drawn arbitrarily without consultations with the staff concerned. This unhealthy trend is causing disappointment among Running Staff and needs rectification.
47. Leave reserve and rest giving SMs/ASMs are put to much hardship when they go to small stations for catering leave/rest to the staff. At small stations one rest room with toilet facilities should be constructed.

The quotation “The great advantage of telling the truth is that, one is so much more likely to sound convincing” is more relevant to all Officers. If Officers do not speak truth, they are only sanctifying lies. If truth is spoken, rules will be followed, tested in practice and amended/modified suitably, wherever necessary. All Railway Officers to remember is “Ends, however noble, will never justify means; means must be as pure as, if not purer than, ends”.

04-10-2011 09:47 AM
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