Southern Railway zone second in workers absenteeism

CHENNAI: If you are one of the passengers in Chennai who has found that the coach is dirty or the Express has a late start from the originating station, it is likely that one of the railway staff in-charge hasn’t turned up for work for the last six months.
Data tabled in Parliament last week shows that (SR), the railway zone headquarted in Chennai and in-charge of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, has 1,476 employees for unauthorised absence, which is the second-highest number among zones in the country.

In an exercise conducted by railway ministry in November 2017, there were 13,521 employees for unauthorised absence who are likely to get the sack. East Central Railway (headquartered at in ) topped the list with 1,792 employees. Compared to this, Chennai-headquartered Integral Coach Factory (ICF) has only 115 absentee staff.

Employees can take one month leave for every year of service. The employees in question have been absent for a period of three to six months or even five years, without informing their superiors, say railway officials.

Though exact department-wise data was unavailable, railway officials say that many of these absent employees might be from workshops and civil engineering department, which is responsible for maintenance of coaches, stations and trains.

“Unauthorised absence affects the quality of output of a team. For instance, if five people are deputed to maintain a coach and two are absent, it takes a toll on the quality of work and consequently, the passenger is robbed of a better service,” said a top SR official, who declined to be identified. In the long term, the regular employees are stressed due to the burden, he added.

Another official who has worked in the SR mechanical department said many from Kerala vanish to the Middle East for jobs without resigning from the railways. But it doesn’t have a major impact on the passenger services, he opined.

“This is especially rampant among doctors and married ministerial staff who feel that their absence can later be regularised,” said Abraham , former chief operations manager (COM) of SR.

Jacob said that compromises on safety and late running of trains (detention of trains at stations) were two of the direct impact of absenteeism. “It is directly linked to unionism. Earlier, only the top leader was allowed to go for union activities, but now many office-bearers of unions indulge in it,” he said.

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