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Change our dept if you can’t improve work conditions: Women train drivers

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NEW DELHI, April 17: Women train drivers have urged the Railway Board to either improve their “pitiable” working conditions or allow them to shift to other departments.

A group of female loco pilots, who are members of the All India Railwaymen Federation, recently gave a representation to the Railway Board chairperson Jaya Varma Sinha, highlighting their plight and demanding “a one-time cadre change” option.

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Lack of toilet facilities in engines, inability to change menstruation pads, mandatory provision to get out of the engine to attend to any technical glitch even at night and no pick-up and drop-off facility for late-night duties are some of the problems cited by the women train drivers.

Currently, over 1500 women are working as loco pilots and assistant loco pilots in various railway zones across the country and they have been raising their issues with the Railway Board through various railway unions and federations.

“The Railways is coming up with new locos with washroom facilities but it will take ages to replace the old ones with the new ones,” a woman loco pilot said.

In 2018, during an interaction with various senior railway officials, the then chairman of the Railway Board was apprised of the challenges that the women loco pilots face at work, another female loco pilot, who was part of the group that met Sinha, told PTI.

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She said, “It was mentioned in the ‘Record Note of Discussion’ that a one-time option may be given to the lady staff in Engineering, Loco Pilot and Guard category for change of category”.

“However, no action was taken after that. So we demand that you change our jobs if you cannot improve pitiable work conditions,” she said.

All India Railwaymen Federation general secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra supported the demands of the women drivers.

“Female loco pilots have a very valid plea that either Railways offer facilities or job change opportunities. AIRF fully supports their demands and we keep on raising their issues till they get resolved,” he said

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Another woman loco driver stressed that they were only asking for basic facilities at work.

“When we came into this profession initially, we were not told that there is no washroom facility in the loco or we wouldn’t get any place to change our sanitary pads during menstruation. We only realised when we started working,” she said.

“We drink minimum water so that we don’t need to use a toilet and this causes various diseases. Male loco pilots also face problems but the condition of females is miserable,” she said.

Female loco pilots say besides loco conversion, there are many other areas where the Railways can improve amenities in the interest of female loco pilots. For instance, there should be facilities for pick-up and drop for late-night shifts.

According to railway norms, if any chain pulling happens or a technical glitch occurs during train operation, the loco pilot has to get down and attend to the problem.

“This norm must be amended. If a chain pulling happens in the middle of the night in any secluded area, how can a woman loco pilot get down and fix it?

“Railways norms violate various other statutory provisions for female workers offered in other sectors,” claimed a female loco pilot, who recently suffered injuries when she came out of the engine to attend to a technical glitch.

She added, “On one hand, the Railway is taking pride in launching modern and new age trains like Vande Bharat but on the other hand, in many running rooms and lobbies, there are no separate washroom facilities for women.”

“We feel very uncomfortable when we have to stay in running rooms while doing out-of-station station duty,” she said. (PTI)




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