An experienced train driver, who earned accolades for his services in the past, spent nine days in a mental hospital and underwent a special checkup to prove his mental fitness because he had threatened to commit suicide to highlight his grievances.
After Shyam Singh was declared fit in the special checkup, the Agra Rail Division has now asked him to go for a refresher course before getting back to driving.
Agra Railway Division PRO Prashasti Srivastava said the medical examination was required to find out if he was mentally sound to drive trains. “We need to take every single measure to ensure safe train operations. A loco pilot, who carries thousands of passengers, must have an attentive and sound mind.” Mr Srivastava also denied any discrimination or revengeful behaviour by the department towards Mr Singh in any manner.
Mr Singh, 48, who joined the railways as an assistant loco pilot in 1996, has been fighting a legal battle against alleged injustice and highhandedness of his seniors for the past one year.
Mr Singh’s plight started in October 2022 when he received a notice for committing minor violations while driving. In his reply, he not only denied all allegations but also accused his seniors of victimizing him due to personal enmity.
When Mr Singh felt that he was being treated unfairly and not heard properly by his seniors, he applied for voluntary retirement from service (VRS) on December 23, 2022.
However, after his well-wishers and sympathizers advised him not to go for VRS and instead fight back, he opted to withdraw the VRS application, which the department refused and relieved him of his services on February 10, 2023.
Mr Singh challenged it in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Allahabad and got a stay order.
“Though the CAT restored his services, the department turned vindictive and put him in junior positions. They knew that he was an experienced mail and express train driver, still he was asked to work as an assistant driver in freight trains against the railway norms,” Sanjay Pandhi, working president of the Indian Railway Loco Runningmen Organisation (IRLRO), said. The IRLRO is providing legal assistance to Mr Singh to fight this case.
Mr Pandhi added, “Singh has been awarded multiple times…for his hard work and quick response to avert accidents.” Meanwhile, Singh wrote several times to his department to put him back to mail and express trains but it was turned down. Out of frustration and to draw the attention of his seniors towards his plight, one day, he wrote on a crew complaint book that he wanted to commit suicide to get rid of his humiliation.
The department used it against him and issued a direction for a mental fitness test and a special brain test to find out if he was mentally sound to drive trains.
When Mr Singh questioned that under which rule he was being subjected to such a test, the department justified it in writing saying that it was important to find out his mental fitness as he drives passenger trains which carry thousands of people and hence it is important for the safety of rail operations.
“Instead of holding a counselling session and trying to understand his grievances, the department sent him to a mental hospital to frustrate him further. This is really pathetic and I request that the Railway Board should intervene in such matters and help employees get justice,” Mr Pandhi added.
Mr Singh spent nine days in a mental hospital only to get a fitness certificate. Even after the hospital declared him medically fit, the department got another test – Non-contrast Computed Tomography (NCCT) of Head – done which showed him normal.
“Now to victimize him further, the railways has asked him to go for a refresher course. Loco pilots are sent for refresher course after three years of driving and Singh’s refresher course is due in July 2024 but the department wants to send him just because of its revengeful behaviour,” Mr Pandhi said.
Divisional PRO Mr Srivastava said that as winters are approaching and loco pilots will encounter foggy weather, every loco pilot will have to undertake a refresher’s course to ensure safe train operations.
“The department has treated Singh’s case with care and compassion. All allegations of injustice or highhandedness are incorrect. We are doing everything possible to bring him back to his job ensuring safety in railways.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)