"Attempt To Demoralise": Railways Minister Rebuts Rahul Gandhi On Loco Pilots

Rahul Gandhi recently met a section of loco pilots at New Delhi station and they complained of "long working hours" and "inadequate facilities".

'Attempt To Demoralise': Railways Minister Rebuts Rahul Gandhi On Loco Pilots

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has responded to the Opposition's allegations

New Delhi:

Countering Congress's offensive on the work conditions of loco pilots, Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw today accused the Opposition of trying to demoralise the Railway family with fake news. The minister put out a post on X, detailing how work conditions of loco pilots had changed for the better after the Narendra Modi government took over.

Loco pilots, Mr Vaishnaw said, are important members of the railway family. "Since there is a lot of misinformation and theatrics by opposition to demotivate our Loco pilots, let me make things very clear."

"Duty hours of loco pilots are carefully monitored. Rest is provided meticulously after trips. The average duty hours are maintained within prescribed hours. The average is less than 8 hours in the month of June this year. Only under exigencies, the trip duration exceeds the prescribed hours," the minister said.

Loco cabs, from where pilots operate trains, were in a "very bad shape" before 2014, the minister said. "Since 2014, cabs have been improved with ergonomic seats, and more than 7,000 loco cabs are air-conditioned. New locomotives are manufactured with AC cabs," he said, underlining the change under the BJP-led government.

The minister then proceeded to focus on how off-duty resting facilities for loco pilot had changed after 2014. "When pilots complete a trip, they come to running room for rest if they are out of headquarters. Before 2014, running rooms were in very bad shape. Almost all (558) running rooms are now air conditioned. In many running rooms, foot massagers are also provided. Incidentally, this was criticised by Congress without understanding the working conditions of loco pilots," he said.

Moving to the subject of recruitment, the minister said 34,000 running staff have been recruited and the process is on for getting 18,000 more.

"The attempt to demoralise railway family with fake news will fail. The entire rail parivar is united in serving our country," Mr Vaishnaw said.

The Railways minister's rebuttal comes days after Rahul Gandhi, Congress MP and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, said that he met a section of loco pilots at New Delhi station and they complained of "long working hours" and "inadequate facilities".

The lives of loco pilot had "completely derailed" under the Narendra Modi government, he said.

"Loco pilots are compelled to work 16 hours a day in simmering cabins. There is no limit to work hours, no leave and not even basic facilities like urinals. They are breaking physically and mentally and getting sick. Making them run trains under such conditions is putting them and passengers' lives in danger," Mr Gandhi said, adding that the INDIA Opposition bloc will raise this issue in Parliament. Mr Gandhi also posted a video of his chat with loco pilots.

Following his post, the Railways had said the loco pilots Mr Gandhi met were not from the Delhi division but were brought from outside. This was, however, countered by several loco pilots' associations who stressed that it was pointless to focus on divisions and zones as long as the pilots have similar grievances.

Mr Gandhi's meeting with loco pilots and the Railways minister's rebuttal comes against the backdrop of the Opposition's offensive against the Centre over railway accidents. The Congress government has been demanding Mr Vaishnaw's resignation in the wake of the Kanchanjunga Express crash last month that left 10 people dead.