Published On: Thu, May 5th, 2016

Blind graduates appointed for desk jobs in Railways, forced to work as ‘safaikarmi’

New Delhi: About 30 partially sighted or blind railway officials allege that they have been forced by officials to sweep, lift garbage, and clean sewage at state-owned railway hospitals and residential colonies.

Blind railway officials say they were recruited by the Delhi division of Northen Railways, and have been forced to work as Sanitation workers despite being selected for other departments.

Blind railway officials say they were recruited by the Delhi division of Northen Railways, and have been forced to work as Sanitation workers despite being selected for other departments.

With Masters and B.Ed degrees, these people were aiming for desk jobs at the Northern Railways’ Delhi division, but were handed brooms instead despite their disabilities and the risk to their safety.

Railway officials are insisting they followed the rulebook.

“These employees were selected through the process of direct recruitment,” said Dimpy Garg, additional divisional railway manager (ADRM), Delhi.

“At the division-level, recruitment can only be made for the post of sanitation workers. Accordingly, they have been placed in sanitation jobs. Placements have been made as per the rules framed by the railway board.”

Ameen Khan, a visually impaired railway employee, says he was recruited under the disabilities quota assigned for desk jobs – but ended up sweeping floors a week after joining work.

Khan recalls his first day of duty on March 16, 2016, when the duty manager refused to assign him a job.

“A few days passed and then I got a bigger shock. I was issued another appointment letter asking me to join as a ‘safaikarmi’ with clear instructions to join by March 28, failing which the appointment letter would be considered cancelled,” the 41-year old said.

He has refused to abide by the government order and has decided to take on the authorities.

Khan, who says he was initially selected as an operator in the wireless department, has been posted in the office of the railway hospital’s chief health inspector.

“I will not succumb to their pressure; I will fight for my dignity,” he said.

The reporter met these railway employees at their workplaces, and found that the condition of the others was no different from Ameen Khan’s.

Three of them – Sholayram, Suraj and Kapil – were sweeping the ground near a community centre at the Kishanganj Loco Shed Railway Colony.

“Can a blind person see the garbage strewn in the premises? Can we collect the garbage and take it to the dumping site in a trolley? We have no option but to report to work or we could lose our job,” said Sholayram.

He is a Delhi University graduate who travels for over two hours from Burari to reach his workplace near central Delhi’s Filmistan area.

Sholayram added: “But we want an answer from the railway authorities. Our disability could never discourage us but we did not expect this humiliation.”

The plight of the workers is not hidden. Residents of the colony told stories of their woes, but expressed their inability to help them.

“They have been reporting daily to work. It is impossible for them to sweep the roads. It’s a shame that the railway authorities have turned apathetic to these people with disabilities,” said Y S Meena, a railway employee and a resident of the colony.

Shankar, a postgraduate in political science from Delhi University currently posted as a sanitation worker at Shakur Basti area, had a similar tale to tell.

“Initially we were asked to lift garbage from the drivers’ running room at the railway station, but after three days we stopped getting work,” he said.

“We have no place to sit here. We have to spend the entire day sitting under a tree along the railway tracks,” added Shankar, who hails from Chennai, while recalling that his selection for the railway job was his biggest hope but has only added to the darkness in his life.

Shankar and three others – Prem Bharti, Ravinder and Rajesh – were found sleeping under a tree near the Shakur Basti railway station. Many other visually challenged recruits, including women, have been posted at railway colonies in Daya Basti and Sarai Rohilla, as well as railway offices at Basant Road in Paharganj.

Vishwanath, who works at Pratap Nagar in central Delhi, said his request for an indoor job was turned down by authorities.

“I am even ready to work as a peon. I requested my supervisor to assign me any office job, but in vain,” he said.

“We tried meeting the divisional railway manager several times, but his office directed us to other officers. So far, we have not got a clear response from the railways. Sanitation work puts our lives at risk. It is practically impossible for us to perform such jobs,” Ameen Khan added.

Inputs with Mail Today

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