Chennai: More than 3,000 employees of Southern Railways are being forced to submit leave applications for their absence during the lockdown in violation of government guidelines.
Condemning the move, the Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU) has submitted memoranda to the officials concerned, demanding that absence of employees be considered as special casual leave or on duty. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has issued an office memorandum to this effect on July 28, it said.
It may be recalled that several employees had been stranded in different parts of the state and country owing to the sudden country-wide lockdown announced on March 25. In addition, there were curbs by state governments on inter-district and inter-state transport from March 22, making it impossible for the employees to return.
Some of the employees said they received their salary only up to May while some others said till June.
EMPLOYEES STRANDED DUE TO SUDDEN LOCKDOWN
For no fault of theirs, the permanent employees of different divisions of the Southern Railways are facing loss of wages or leave reduction for their absence during the lockdown period. Some of the employees had left for their hometowns on the weekend in March just ahead of the travel restrictions of the state government following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a ‘Janata Curfew’ on March 22 and total lockdown from March 25.
Baby Shakkeela, assistant general secretary of DREU, said: “The employees were stranded in different parts of the state and country as no mode of transportation was available. Now the administration is forcing these employees to submit leave applications for the entire duration of absence during the lockdown. This is against the regulations of the Union government and Indian Railways”.
As a result, over 3,000 employees from different divisions of Southern Railway and different departments, including workshops and headquarters (HQ), are facing the threat of losing their salaries or casual leaves or both.
The DoPT, in the office memorandum, has clearly stated that the absence of government servants who left HQ prior to the lockdown but could not return to HQ on March 23 due to non-availability of transport should be considered to have joined duty on March 23, if intimated on the difficulty to the office.
“A good number of HQ employees are also facing this problem. They left the city on March 20 for weekend holidays and could not return owing to the lockdown. They were not given e-passes. Now they are being forced to submit leave letters. We cannot permit this to happen as this goes against the memorandum of the DoPT”, R Elangovan, vice president of DREU, added.
The employees have submitted a request to the general manager in this regard. The total affected employees would be around 3,000, the union leaders said.
Around 346 garage workshop employees are also facing similar problems. Most of these workers are from Kerala and were unable to return to work owing to the lockdown.
“The workers left Chennai on the last available train on March 25 after the workshops were closed down. The workshops were opened only on April 19 with 33% workforce. The employees were able to return only after the e-pass norms were relaxed by the state government. They are joining duty after the mandatory quarantine and are now staring at the loss of wage and casual leaves”, said Elangovan.
The DREU has submitted individual requests on behalf of each of the 346 employees to the Chief Workshop Manager, urging implementation of DoPT guidelines. The master circular number 10 of the Railways also grants permission to sanction special casual leave to the employees unable to return to work for lack of transport facilities, said union leaders.
However, the Rail administration is refusing to implement the master circular and the DoPT, much to the agony of the affected employees. The loss of leaves for more than 100 days could affect the employees as well. Since the issue is still pending, these employees fear losing their wages for August as well.