Kerala: Gangmen kept out, safety hit

A gang' team includes 15 trackmen, one keyman and one gangmeter.

Kochi: The Thiruvananthapuram division of Southern Railway is presently facing a shortage of nearly 1,000 vacancies of ‘gangmen’ or ‘track maintainers’ entrusted with crucial safety aspects like track inspection, leading to compromise in rail safety and mishaps like the derailment at Karukutty on Sunday. Though the scenario is much better than that of last year, when vacancies touched 1,300, the high attrition rate among the section is resulting in the crisis, according to engineering department officials.

“The recruitment process has been going on for the last several months to fill up the vacancies. However, this is one category where attrition rate among the staff is the highest. Many even quit the job without applying for the mandatory NOC from the department. This has resulted in vacancies not getting reported on time,” the officer said.

The ‘gangmen’ perform the crucial task of track maintenance under difficult conditions, including track inspections manually and using mechanized equipment. “Currently, there are nearly 1,000 vacancies, including ‘absent vacancies.’ Against a sanctioned strength of 3,900, the division has only around 3,000 personnel in the category. In Ernakulam section itself, against a sanctioned strength of 290, there are 147 vacancies in the permanent way inspection wing,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

A ‘gang’ team includes 15 trackmen, one keyman and one gangmeter. However, instead of 17 personnel, most teams now consist of only 10 or 11. This compromises security as each person has a jurisdiction of only six km, he pointed out. Meanwhile, there are also charges that most of the candidates deployed here are those hailing from other states and that they quit the job within a short period of time on getting better jobs in their native land. This even as many Malayalis recruited for the posts are deployed in other divisions.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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