Indian Railways had augmented the number of beds and built oxygen plants in rail hospitals.
Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways has lost 1,952 employees, including frontline staff such as station masters, to the COVID-19 pandemic since last year. Even now, nearly 1,000 railwaymen are getting infected by covid on a daily basis, according to the Railways Ministry. Suneet Sharma, Chairman Railway Board, was quoted in an IE report saying that as of now, the national transporter has 4,000 beds currently occupied by railway staff and their families. Since March last year, as many as 1,952 railway employees have died due to Covid-19 as of yesterday, he said. Indian Railways had augmented the number of beds and built oxygen plants in rail hospitals, he added.
According to the All Indian Station Masters’ Association (AISMA), 113 station masters have died in the pandemic so far, most of them in the second wave this year. The Railway Protection Force (RPF) has lost 50 men so far. The association, in letters to the Railway Board and several railway divisions, has demanded things such as special insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh for each of them, as well as immediate vaccination of their cadre. The truncated staff have to work overtime because of many station masters falling sick, since railway stations cannot be left without station masters.
Employees’ unions of Indian Railways- India’s largest commercial utility employer, have cited that nearly one lakh employees have been struck by the novel coronavirus during the pandemic, of which two-third have recovered so far. At present, according to the officials, the focus is on vaccinating the staff. In several railway zones and divisions, Indian Railways’ effort is on to vaccinate employees in batches through coordination with state governments. According to the report, when vaccination for frontline workers was opened, railway medical staff and RPF personnel got vaccinated. However, other categories such as station masters, ticket checkers, guards and drivers were not included in that drive.
Recently, the All India Railwaymen’s Federation wrote to Railway Minister demanding compensation on a par with frontline workers for railway employees who lost their lives while working during the pandemic crisis. They said that these railwaymen deserved compensation of Rs 50 lakh, same as the amount that is announced for frontline workers and not compensation of Rs 25 lakh, which is paid to them.