Luckily, the gate was open. The weather meter in my car dashboard indicated 16 deg Celsius and the early morning silence was slowly broken by my car stereo with a devotional song. I was slowly approaching the railway cross.
Interestingly, she was a familiar figure. This lady works as a guard at the railway gate and one can often find her operating the gates. I was wondering what she was doing in the middle of the track at that hour without any fear of oncoming random traffic. She did not get up even after noticing my car headlights or another one approaching the tracks from the opposite direction. She was busy doing something on the track. That's when I noticed a brush and a tray in her hand and she was collecting something from the track.
Two days later, I met this lady and spoke to her. What a surprise! she confidently spoke to me in good English. She is a graduate and lives in a nearby village. When I enquired about the safety standards and why she would risk her life, she said, Sir, it is my duty to keep the railway cross clean and also ensure the surrounding area to be clean from garbage. My primary responsibility is to make sure the railway gate is closed and opened on time. Secondly, I must keep the railway track clean otherwise I'll receive a possible suspension from my higher authorities. She did not talk much about the safety procedures that she was supposed to follow.
- The Indian government has launched an ambitious multi-billion dollar Bullet Train project, great to know that and I'm sure such projects come with impeccable safety standards. At the same time, there are millions of kilometers of Indian Railways has thousands of such manned railway crossings and every single railway level cross has a person manning the level cross to clean the rail tracks.
- 28,607 level crossings across the country of which 19,267 are manned and 9340 are unmanned (Source: Indian Express)
- Regular inspection is done by railway engineers regarding the tracks. I've only seen men doing such work
- How can a women worker be allowed to work at 4.45 am, risking her own safety?
- How many times we all travel in a train and wish our journey to be a safe one? Also, there is always a lot of discussion about improving the safety of rail travelers. Who is taking care of the occupational hazards of such low-level workers who complete a vital link in providing the required safety for the passengers?