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Women train drivers raise safety concern as Jhansi division asks them to do night shift

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NEW DELHI, April 23: More than 100 women train drivers have raised concern for their safety and highlighted lack of facilities after the Jhansi Rail Division recently issued an order directing them to do all work shifts “on a par with male drivers”.

Before this direction, female drivers were assigned train duty in such a way that they used to either complete their trip and come home or reach the destination station before 10 at night and rest in ‘running rooms’.

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The latest order by the Jhansi division was issued on April 16 this year.

A section of the women drivers have sent a written complaint to the divisional railway manager (DRM), Jhansi, in this regard.

“Now as per the new direction, we have been asked to be ready for work round-the-clock. We have requested the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) to reconsider the decision. We will face a huge safety issue as the Railways doesn’t provide any additional facilities to female drivers,” a woman driver said.

When contacted, a senior railway official from the Jhansi division said the decision was taken due to intense work pressure.

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“Till a few years ago, there were about a dozen girls in our division but now their numbers have gone up to over 100. As trains run round-the-clock, we can’t ask their male counterparts to compensate for their absence all the time. This increases work pressure on male drivers which is not good for safe train operations,” the official said.

He added, “I fully admit that females have a lot of challenges driving trains late at night but we cannot offer facilities in the want of any guideline from the Railway Board. I think the Board should come out with a comprehensive guideline in this regard.”

Female drivers said that Jhansi rail yard is deserted in the late evening and it is not safe for them to visit late at night to board the engine.

“I request the chairperson of the Railway Board to visit the Yard once and see how safe it is at night. Being a woman, I hope she understands our problem,” another female loco pilot said.

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Sanjay Pandhi, the working president of the Indian Railway Loco Runningmen Organisation, while supporting the cause of the female drivers, said, “Railway authorities are violating the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act while issuing such an order. According to the Act, the employer is duty bound to ensure safe working conditions for all women workers. However, female loco pilots don’t get pick-up and drop facilities.”

Female drivers also said that the official order doesn’t talk about any pick-up and drop facilities for late night work.

“This April 16 order is causing huge stress and depression for many drivers which is not safe for train operations either. We are not shying away from our jobs but at least the Railways should ensure basic facilities for our safety and convenience,” the female driver said.

Recently, women train drivers 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.

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 facility for late-night duties are some of the problems cited by the women train drivers.

These female drivers demanded that their jobs should be changed if the Railways couldn’t improve the work conditions. (PTI)





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