An astronaut was once asked “what was uppermost in his mind when he was orbiting the space”. He said, “all the while I was worried about the fact that each component of this rocket was bought through L-1 quotation”.
Be it rocket, car or train……. safety is of paramount importance. Rest everything else i.e., speed, comfort, luxury and maneuverability is secondary. Recently, there was a cartoon in the newspapers where Pakistan is shown requesting America “It’s OK if you do not give us the latest fighter aircraft so long as India continues to get MIG aircraft”. Similarly, nearer home, now Railway Ministry is called ‘Railway Accident Ministry’.
Often, we hear that safety is jeopardized because of large number of vacancies in Safety posts. However, the ground reality is different and vacancies are not too many and vary from 3% to 15% and there is no category for which selection is not in progress. We all agree that we have to live with vacancies. At any given point of time, there will be vacancies in any cadre from lowest to highest. However, vacancies need to be promptly filled and in case the same is likely to take time, ad hoc arrangements could be resorted to by not compromising with the quality aspect.
Vacancy as an excuse is not acceptable where the cadre itself runs in a few thousands or a few hundreds. It is a typical situation where a Pilot says that the most important Nut Bolt in an aircraft is the one which is absent. Nearer home, it is like Rajbhasha Vibhag saying “How could Rajbhasha flourish and how it could be promoted when there is a vacancy of one Chief Clerk in their cadre”.
Safety is everyone’s concern and not the responsibility of Divisional Safety Officer/Chief Safety Officer alone. Everyone has to do one’s bit to promote safety and safety environment. Nothing is ‘Fail-Safe’ in this world, fail-safe is a myth and accidents do take place even in most advanced and developed nations. Our endeavor is to provide safest possible journey to our consumers and an environment where railwaymen work with a sense responsibility towards safety.
When an accident occurs, comic scenes are witnessed. Fact-finding inquiry is converted into fault-finding exercise and everyone indulges in the game called “You blame me, I blame you” or “Blame it on others”. Even when the cause of an accident/failure is located, it is the department, which is maligned and not the individual. When it comes to nabbing the individual, often it is the last man in the ladder.
The following suggestions are made:
1. Like air hostesses, as soon as one touches 50 years of age, he should be subject to greater scrutiny and grounded to work on a post other than safety post.
2. Training should be made pre-requisite before any promotion and even if one refuses promotion, he should be sent for training at least, so that well-trained manpower is available.
3. Safety category staff, particularly Group ‘D’ for e.g. Gang men, etc. should not be misused and made to work in office/house and anybody found to be doing so needs to be penalized, similar to the offense of misuse of Metal Pass.
4. Often it is seen that employees e.g., Bungalow Peon, Hamal, Khalasi, etc. are eager to change their category on one pretext or the other. It is suggested that on the lines of Northern Railway, such category change could be allowed only from his existing category to Gang man.
5. Correspondence could be avoided as far as possible when it comes to finalization of selections/promotion, instead committee can visit the places where there is concentration of such eligible category staff. This will ensure availability of employees at one place and the work will suffer the least.
6. Headquarters of all Inspectors including Welfare Inspectors could be decentralized with each having the list of Safety category staff with him to acquaint himself and interact with them frequently with a view to redress their grievances.
7. Booklets in vernacular on Safety aspects with ‘DOs and DON’Ts’ should be circulated to Safety staff. .
8. Like corporate enterprises and more recently similar to some of the Railway Workshops, we may examine the possibility of acquiring ISO Certification for safe train operations.
9. The principle of rewarding the meritorious employees and punishing the erring employees could be made more transparent and stringent. A law-abiding employee is made to work continuously while an employee absent unauthorisedly is not taken up. Thus, the duty-bound employee suffers at the cost of carelessness of his fellow reliever.
10. Last but not the least, we may examine the possibility of abolishing the Safety cadre altogether, as it is believed Safety is not the monopoly of an individual or department merely by virtue of designation. It is concern of one and all and all are equally responsible for ensuring safety and providing environment conducive to safe working. Spread of Rajbhasha is taken as a sole responsibility of Rajbhasha Department while all others feel that it is not their business, reducing Rajbhasha Department to collecting statements and sending fuzzed data, and filing imaginary returns. For we may import German coaches, Sweden engine but our worn out track and more worn out manpower with ‘CHALTA HAI’ attitude will essentially remain Indian.
Visualize a scenario where Rajbhasha Department is abolished and it is made imperative for all the employees to promote Rajbhasha. Similarly, visualize a scenario where safety will be everyone’s concern and not merely of the Divisional Safety Officer/Chief Safety Officer who are presently bogged down with collecting figures, sending replies, inquiring into the obvious and last but not the least, taking false pride in getting Safety Shield year after year while we all know it is ACT OF GOD.