In the wake of a spate of accidents that claimed more than 300 lives in 2017, the railway ministry has started to roll out stern measures to mitigate such tragedies in the future.
The latest being – banning railway staff from using Whatsapp and YouTube during working hours, IndiaToday reported.
Railway officials said the messaging app was a ‘major distraction’, especially while managing train operations and hence have called for the ban’s implementation.
“It was noted that several members of the staff associated with the safety department or the operational staff were using WhatsApp and YouTube during working hours.”
“They have been told not to use these apps and entertainment medium and to perform their duty with greater efficiency and alertness,” an official said to IndiaToday.
Using the apps has compromised passenger safety, the report says.
However, the report did not mention how authorities would restrict the use of such apps while using phones. What it did say was staff that are required to communicate with one another, such as drivers and guards with station masters, are permitted to do so only through walky-talkies. It is unknown whether the ban of apps equates to not using mobile phones in toto during working hours.
The Standing Committee on Railways, while examining safety and security said more than half of the accidents are due to lapses on the part of the employees, the Wire reported. Carelessness, poor maintenance work, short-cuts and not following safety rules and procedures have cost many lives.
The new circular will be applicable to all maintenance and safety staff such as trackmen, gang men guards on railway crossings, loco pilots and train guards. Even station managers and superintendents who are primarily responsible for the operation of trains at their stations cannot use WhatsApp on duty.
The circular has been issued by the Delhi division of Indian Railways to its entire operational staff. If employees are found violating the orders, they will be dealt with strictly, it said.
A senior railway official said similar orders would be issued in all divisions shortly.
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Existing rules also prescribe for such restrictions on staff, a loco pilot at Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin station said to IndiaToday. Drivers and guards are required to switch off their phones while on duty.
They are not even allowed to leave the locomotive to use the restroom, the pilot said.
The last major railway accident was the Utkal Express derailment on Aug 18 that killed 23 people and injured over 40 others. Fourteen coaches of Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Express train derailed in Khatauli in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district.