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Citizens' Mail

What ails the Railway

For people to support and sympathise and encourage the Railway strikers, they must first learn what J F Kenedy, the then President of America had said: “Don’t ask what the country has done for you, ask yourself what you have done for the country.”

As one who had served this once grand department for a couple of years in the early 1950s, I have seen the fast deterioration of the once acclaimed best Railway Service in South East Asia. Walk into any Railway Station, the toilets are not clean and smelly. Have you seen Station Masters on their white uniforms with their caps although they are provided with the material for uniforms or are given financial assistance? This goes for other railway workers who are entitled to uniforms.

In the grand old days, all stations had beautiful flower gardens and platforms swept regularly. Then coming to the Permanent Way – track. It is a disgrace and eye-sore to see railway yards overgrown with weeds and rusting rolling stock. It was the responsibility of the Foremen Platelayers to see the track and yards are kept clean. In the days gone by, a train traveller could see wild daisies along the track, passing Nawalapitiya, but today the scene is different. Very often we hear of derailments, which are difficult for poor maintenance. Then go back to the bungalows they are provided with. They have become slums. A visit to Mt. Mary Railway housing will prove my statement. This housing complex once had tennis courts, and other recreational activities but today – it is left to be seen. One would pause to question if their own dwellings provided by the department are not maintained, can one expect these men to have a clean workplace. I believe, the workforce has trebled since the 1950s, but the standard of maintenance and output has tragically declined. All because of ad hoc recruitment and political interferences.

The present-day railway employees should be reminded of that legendary General Manager, B D Rampala, who ran the railway so efficiently, that no trains were late and the staff very conscious of their duties.

The cry for pay hikes may be justifiable but at the same time the workers should also see to the inconvenience of the travelling public and carry out their assigned duties diligently. It may be these strikes are motivated by disgruntled, bankrupt politicians who will also protest if the train fares are increased to meet the salary increases and maintenance of the rolling stock and permanent way. To wind up, the then Ceylon Government Railways [CGR] has now become Can’t Go Right.

G A D Sirimal
Boralesgamuwa


 

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