Indian Railways restructures for safety

Wednesday, 23 July 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Under flak for a series of train accidents, Indian Railways is embarking on a major restructuring exercise to attract better skilled people and improve safety.

The railway board and railway unions are jointly working out the plan.

"We hope to finalise the cadre restructuring scheme within a month. It has already been approved by a special committee and deliberated by the railway board, and the changes suggested are being incorporated," Railway Board chairman R.K. Singh told IANS.

"There will be no financial implication of implementing the scheme. While no new pay scales are being introduced, within the scale we will provide better salaries depending on the level of skill.

"With the railways introducing new technologies, our need is for better qualified personnel who would be seeking higher pay scales," said Singh.

Railway Minister Nitish Kumar decided last week to offer voluntary retirement schemes (VRS) to drivers and gangmen - those who man railway tracks - aged above 50 years. The scheme will find many takers among the 50,000 gangmen and 8,000 drivers who would qualify for the scheme, feel railway officials.

As VRS will come with the offer of jobs to the qualified children of drivers and gangmen in the railways, better skilled people are expected to fill the vacancies.

Railway unions too have also agreed to surrender posts falling vacant or redundant, said M. Raghaviah, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen.

"By surrendering redundant posts, it has been agreed that the matching savings will be used by the railways to self-finance the new cadre restructuring scheme. This will provide the necessary motivational push to ensure better performance by workers in all cadres and ensure better safety," said Raghaviah.

The restructuring exercise will allow for better pay packets "as workers will be starting at a higher pay level within the cadre", said Raghaviah.

He was hopeful that the scheme will be rolled out next month and provide the necessary morale booster for employees who help man the second largest railway network covering a 63,000-km route and operating 14,000 trains daily.

Barring 11,000 officers, this scheme will indirectly help the railways trim the flab and benefit all lower rung employees, said Singh.

"With the induction of better skilled people, we hope to reduce the stress on technical manpower and machinery," said Singh.

Indian Railways has seen a slew of accidents in recent months, the last major tragedy having taken place on July 2 in Andhra Pradesh in which 22 people were killed.

Source: IANS
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