He runs goods train so people don’t go hungry

While most of us have our waking hours split between working from home and Netflix these days, loco pilot Surendra Kumar Chauhan reports for eighthour shifts like nothing has changed. An employee of the Bengaluru division of South Western Railway, Chauhan, 40, steers goods trains carrying essential items, including rice, wheat, petroleum products and medicines between Bengaluru and places like Jolarpettai, Mysuru and Dharmavaram. Though railways suspended passenger services till April 14 due to the nationwide lockdown, those like Chauhan are at the wheel of goods trains to ensure supplies of essential commodities are not hit. Chauhan, who joined Indian Railways in 2010, says his family is supportive of him braving the virus threat. “They are concerned but also understand that mine is an essential service. We have to show up for work for goods to be transported. Goods trains carry several essentials, including medicines and food items. People will suffer if these trains stop running and I don’t want that to happen,” he says. Chauhan says he is proud to be playing a small part in Indian Railways role in ensuring availability of essential services at this time of crisis. “It’s now that the country needs the service of loco pilots like me,” he adds. Pointing out that this is probably the first time that passenger train services have been suspended for such a long period, he asserts, “We will overcome this.” Chauhan says he gets a break of 16 hours between two shifts. Apart from loco pilots, their assistants and guards, station masters, pointsman, controllers and trackmen are at the forefront to ensure freight services remain uninterrupted. They also facilitate crossing of trains and efficient utilisation of wagons. Unlike passenger trains, freight trains don’t work to a fixed timetable. Chauhan, from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, has been staying with his family in KR Puram, Bengaluru, for 10 years. “Railways provided us with masks and sanitisers. Seniors often check my temperature and ensure I keep healthy,” he says. However, Chauhan refuses to remove the mask even for a photo. “We have been asked to wear the mask as a precaution while on duty. So please don’t compel me,” he says,while getting ready for another trip.