With the total number of COVID-19 cases crossing 95,000 within the Indian Railways, one of the country’s largest employers is worried. Now, they are urging different state governments to prioritize all railway employees as frontline workers (FLW) and inoculate them. One such letter was written on May 14, by the General Manager of Western Railway (WR) to Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte. This comes at a time when one of the biggest unions of National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) spoke to the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and other top officials from the Indian Railways earlier this week.
According to sources, the WR General Manager in his letter has pointed out that 95,052 employees man and operate a network of 6,509 kms of tracks and at present, WR is transporting about 9.16 lakh passengers daily on its suburban and non-suburban network. The WR has also run 25 Oxygen Express trains as well.
‘It is estimated that about 32,028 employees are stationed within Maharashtra jurisdiction. Of these about 8,153 have received vaccination. The remaining staff need to be vaccinated on priority basis to enable this manpower to be able to render their services with full confidence. Hence Western Railway would need about 43,982 doses for completing the doses of the Railway employees residing within the Maharashtra jurisdiction,’ reads the letter written by General Manager Alok Kansal.
Kansal has also referred to previous office letter dated April 27 wherein, it was requested to arrange adequate supply of vaccines at the Railway vaccination centres for free of cost. ‘The vaccines are being supplied by State authorities. However, owing to irregular supply, the vaccine centres are unable to operate to its optimum level,’ mentions the letter.
“We have written a letter to the Maharashtra government,” confirmed Sumit Thakur, Chief PRO, Western Railway. The WR authorities are worried as their employees who are FLWs, are being exposed to the general public during the course of their duties and need to be protected adequately with vaccination.
Sources said that since the railway employees need multiple interaction with public and co-workers at workplaces; they are at risk of infection from Covid-19. “We have requested that appropriate guidelines be issued to include all Railway employees under frontline worker category and ensure vaccination of all railway employees on priority basis,” said a senior WR official.
The letter has also mentioned that state governments of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha have considered all Railway employees (age 18+) as FLW and directed concerned authorities for vaccination on priority. The railway unions members from NFIR claim that they have demanded ex-gratia amount to the provided to the families of those railway employees who died from Covid-19.
“In total, approximately 1 lakh railway employees have been infected from Covid-19 till now. At least 2,000 employees sadly passed away from this virus in this second wave and more than 450 have died in the first wave. We have been pressing for a long time, to provide ex-gratia to our rail employees and their families as provided to frontline workers. We have also demanded that vaccines be provided to all our employees separately so that everyone can be inoculated,” said Dr M Raghavaiah, General Secretary, National Federation of Indian Railwaymen.