Southern Railways has been forced to withdraw a circular directing Station Masters to communicate with the Divisional Control Office only in English or Hindi, following protests from the railway employees and the DMK. The circular which was issued on June 12 had mandated that Station Masters and Division Control Office must ‘avoid using regional languages’ for internal communication, which they said was an effort to avoid any miscommunication. However, railway employees and opposition leaders protested against this move, calling it illogical and an imposition of Hindi.
On June 12, the Chennai division of Southern Railways issued a circular stating that “communication between the Divisional Control Offices and the Station Masters should be either in English or in Hindi, and the use of regional language should be avoided to prevent either side not understanding what is being said.” According to sources in the Southern Railways, the decision was based on a near-collision of two trains in Madurai due to an instance of miscommunication. Railway employees signaled for two trains to leave on the same track. A mishap was averted almost instantly when one train was stopped, but it brought to fore the issue of a communication gap between employees.
In a revised circular on Friday, Southern Railways warned staff to be highly cautious when communicating or receiving instructions. The circular stated that there must be no room for misunderstanding or ambiguity but did not specify on what languages must be used for communication.
All India Station Masters Association President John Vincent told TNM that he personally approved of the move to withdraw the circular. "This was done based on complaints from the control department, which is dominated by Hindi speaking employees. As Railways employees, we are more than willing to go learn the local language wherever we are posted. But when someone is posted in a state like Tamil Nadu, you can't force them to learn Hindi as well," he said, “Several station masters had already registered their displeasure with authorities. We are glad to see that this has been acted upon."
DMK Lok Sabha MP Dayanidhi Maran along with other DMK leaders held a demonstration at the Puratchi Thalaivar Dr MG Ramachandran Central Railway Station on Friday, before the circular was withdrawn.
The revised circular -
"It felt that attention is required to ensure that communication between the Control and the Station is improved. While it goes without saying that it is the responsibility of the Control to ensure that every instruction passed by it to the Station Master is clear and fully comprehended, it is also essential that the SMs (Station Masters) do the same while requesting permissions or advising action that they are taking. Therefore, it may be ensured that communication between Control and Station Masters does not give room to any misunderstanding or ambiguity and is clearly understood by all concerned."