take railway for a ride
Nilika de Silva
Railway guards and train crew are earning thousands of
rupees on overtime payments each year, while the Department is reportedly
It is learnt
that these guards and train crew are being paid for 500 to 600 hours
of overtime per month, in addition to batta and other extra allowances,
on the strength of age old regulations and misinterpretations of
While a railway
guard's basic salary is about Rs. 8,895 per month, overtime (OT)
and batta earned swells it to over Rs. 53,000. Circulars have been
misinterpreted continuously since 1992 to make payments, in excess
of what is due. Two circulars dated 23/01/1992 and 30/09/1992 clearly
show that the intervals between two turns of a guard's duty hours
have been badly defined, causing the state to pay even for time
the worker is not entitled to.
If the interval
between two turns of duty is less than nine hours payment is calculated
on the mileage up and down, while if the interval is more than nine
hours the guard is entitled to batta..
The irony is
that a Cabinet decision is about to legalise this anomaly, while
over a period of ten years the country has lost millions of rupees
as a result.
Train No. 23
plying from Colombo Fort to Hatton has the train crew comprising
a driver, his assistant, headguard and underguard changing three
times. The first crew works the train to Kandy and gives over in
order to earn batta while another crew takes over and works the
train to Nawalapitiya from where the next crew takes over till Hatton.
Train No. 183/526
which operates from Colombo to Rambukkana takes 5 1/2 hours for
the journey. At Polgahawela the guards change.
room facilities for the night are available at Rambukkana the same
crew can operate the train on the return journey. However batta
payments are made to the two crews.
The GMR and
other railway officials trot out the excuse that there is a shortage
the Chilaw line, 12 guards are deployed on the Bangadeniya and Muthukumari
trains and they earn about Rs. 255,000 a month as overtime. This
clearly is an indication of the wastage involved.
train no. 409 is scheduled to complete the run in less than three
hours. However, a separate crew is used for the return journey when
the same crew can be deployed.
deployment of guards the Department can save on the payment of batta
and overtime in using extra guards.
Even the duty
roster of guards is said to be made with trade unionists having
a hand in it.
While the cadre
of guards for the entire country is 642, the numbers on roll at
present are about 400 with 229 guards stationed at Maradana.
TULF meeting today
The decision making working committee of the TULF
will hold a crucial meeting in Colombo today amidst disputes over
the party leadership and the nomination of a national list MP to
succeed party leader M. Sivasithamparam who died recently.
who has reportedly being given the green light by the LTTE is likely
to be appointed as an MP, though senior Vice President V. Anandasangaree
is known to have preferred another candidate from Jaffna. Mr.Thurairatnasingham
from Trincomalee was preferred by the LTTE because it wants more
representation from the Trincomalee district.
Mr. Anandasangaree who visited Kilinochchi recently and had talks
with LTTE leaders, Trincomalee district has been under represented
by the Tamil community after the Seruwila electorate was created
for the Sinhalese and the multi member Muttur constituency became
a single member electorate depriving Tamils of their representation.
is tipped to be elected as party leader today though a section of
the party was known to have backed Batticaloa district leader Joseph
Pararajasingham for the top post.
incentive for cardiologists
top cardiologists have received a letter from the Nawaloka Hospital
offering them a 'special payment' of Rs. 10,000 for each case of
open heart surgery referred to the resident consultant cardiothoracic
surgeon of the hospital.
management in the letter to the cardiologists said the special payment
was being made to maintain goodwill but the letter has set off a
major controversy over what is seen as unethical inducements.
cardiologists who were reportedly offended by the letter brought
the matter to the notice of the Sri Lanka Medical Council- the official
body responsible for maintaining ethics in the medical profession.
the SLMC has written to professional medical associations alerting
them to the danger of a serious violation of ethical values arising
from the matter. The SLMC has reportedly said it would consider
serious action if official complaints were made to it regarding
violations of ethics.
An ethics committee
member of a medical association told The Sunday Times the apparent
inducement posed the threat of a serious danger to the time honoured
values of doctor-patient relationship.
He said the
special payment might be standard business practice but it ran clearly
against medical ethics.
He said the
professional associations were also disturbed that the situation
provided a temptation for consultants to send a patient for open
heart surgery even in cases where it was not essential. Eventually
the special payment of Rs. 10,000 would be put on the total bill
of the patient, he claimed.
The new controversy
has arisen amidst moves by patients rights groups and others to
restore the welfare of the patient as the centerpiece of healthcare
and medical services. A spokesman for the patients rights group
said the system today was to a large extent dragging the medical
profession into a business.
Hospital's cardiac unit manager P. Withanage, contacted by The Sunday
Times issued the following statement:
seems to have been misunderstood and if it has caused pain of mind
to any professional it is very much regretted. We would like to
clarify as follows;
a professional charge paid for looking after patients while under
the care of cardiac surgeon and cardiac anaesthetist in the intensive
care unit after surgery for about 14 days.
is paid by the hospital share of the package and does not get charged
to the patient.
for the welfare of the patient. Since cardiac surgery is a package,
the Doctors' charges are paid in fixed amounts to 5 to 6 professionals
who see the patients.
referred to in the letter is one such fixed amount".
Drug supplies blocked as lifts grind
to a halt
The breakdown of the lifts at the Medical Supplies Division
(MSD) has brought to a halt all supplies and issue of drugs to hospitals
and other health institutions since last Friday, MSD sources said.
Two lifts that
operate at the MSD, one for regular supplies and another used for
items in bulk, have ceased to operate bringing to a halt the issue
of drugs to many health institutions.
a month, the small lift at the MSD which operates mainly to the
first and second floors, has been out of order restricting the quantity
of stocks issued to health institutions daily.
With the first
and second floors housing 12 store sections, fifty percent of the
drugs issued is transported in this lift. Many if not all supplies
to health institution are stored on the first and second floors,
The Sunday Times learns.
Since the breakdown,
a second lift, which is larger in size and used to carry only items
in bulk was being used. However, this lift too broke down last Thursday
bringing all issue of supplies and even receiving of drugs to a
MSD sources, the large lift makes only ten trips per day bringing
in and taking out drug stocks in bulk. Since its breakdown on Thursday,
stocks of drugs to be issued have been held back.
the import of an anti-venom serum from India by the State Pharmaceutical
Corporation (SPC) has allegedly stopped due to the closure of several
companies there owing to an ongoing case.
Managing Director Prof. K. Kamalgoda explained that though some
companies had to phase out their production due to cases filed against
them for not adhering to certain legal requirements, the company
exporting the serum to Sri Lanka has confirmed that it can continue