Barobazar at Kaliganj in Jhenidah is one of the 389 poorly-manned level crossings of the country where at least 11 people were killed after a train had rammed a bus early yesterday.
However, apart from those 389, the rest of the 2,541 level crossings across the country have no guards at all, leaving lives of people at stake, said a top official of Bangladesh Railway.
Besides, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) had built around 1,100 of those level crossings violating rules, Railway Secretary Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad told The Daily Star.
Director General of Bangladesh Railway Tafazzal Hossain, however, said gatemen perform their duty at every level crossing in three eight-hour shifts every day.
At the accident site, the two gatemen deployed at the level crossing made their own 48-hour shift per person, resulting in severe neglect of duty, said sources at adjacent Mobarakganj Railway Station. Asked, DG Tafazzal said, "We will investigate the incident from both divisional and general manager levels to find out the real fact."
He also admitted that gatemen posted in remote areas often mutually managed their duty roasters.
"As per rule, level crossings on the national highways should have 12 gatemen in three shifts, and those on one-lane roads should have three gatemen," he said, adding the rule was sometimes ignored in some cases due to shortage of manpower.
The railway secretary told The Daily Star that there were around 40,000 sanctioned posts for gatemen and other personnel, but they had only 25,000 in-service staff.
He added the LGED and the RHD had illegally built around 1,100 level crossings across the country in violation of laws.
Azad further said though the LGED and the RHD needed approval from the railway ministry to construct roads crossing rail tracks, they had defied it.
Even after the approval, the department concerned was bound to erect bars and bear the cost of gatemen if they made such roads, the railway secretary added.