'Dead body' order angers train drivers
New Delhi - Train drivers in India are furious after being told in new directives that they should remove dead bodies from the tracks to help cut down on delays, a workers' organisation said on Wednesday.
Indian Railways issued a circular last month instructing assistant drivers and guards to "load the dead body on the brake van and remove it to the nearest gate lodge or the next station" to reduce disruption to running schedules.
Outraged rail unions have called the new move an act of "criminal coercion" that infringes on the judicial system of the country.
"It is inherently illegal," complained Sanjay Kumar Padhi, one of the heads of the Indian Railways Loco Running Organisation, who read out the circular over the phone.
"The removal of dead bodies from the tracks by guards and drivers will amount to the removal of primary evidence from the scene of a crime," Padhi said.
"The railways is clearly jumping the signal on this one."
Bad accident record
The circular has now been withdrawn and sent back for "fresh deliberations", a divisional railway manager said.
"It has gone back to the railways headquarters. It is being reconsidered," he said, requesting not to be named.
The Indian railways - still the main form of long-distance travel despite fierce competition from new airlines - run thousands of passenger and freight trains and carry millions of people daily.
But the system has a notoriously bad accident record, with the National Crime Records Bureau saying nearly 28 000 people died in rail-related incidents in 2010.
In a report on Tuesday, the Hindustan Times newspaper claimed the problem of dead bodies being found on the tracks had been growing alarmingly.
"Organised groups bring dead bodies from elsewhere and throw them on the tracks to claim compensation from the railways," an unnamed Railways official was quoted as saying by the paper.
Padhi of the Loco organisation said drivers and guards could not assume the role of police and get involved in criminal matters.
"Law and order is not our job. It is the job of the police," he said.