People like porters, day labourers and betel leaf sellers are guarding six closed railway stations in Parbotipur-Chilahati section under the West Zone (WZ) of Bangladesh Railway (BR) for over a decade under a temporary arrangement.
According to WZ's Pakshey division, there are 61 kilometer rail lines and 10 stations in this section. Those are Belaichondi, Saidpur, Khairatnagar, Darwani, Nilphamari College, Nilphamari, Taranibari, Domar, Mirzaganj and Chilahati stations.
Of them, Belaichondi, Khairatnagar, Darwani, Nilphamari College, Taranibari and Mirzaganj stations remained closed for years due to shortage of manpower, said Khondokar Shahidul Islam, general manager (GM) at WZ of BR.
Once vibrant Nilphamari College Station is now closed and at present betel leaf seller Saiful Islam, 50, acts as its caretaker.
Saiful said he worked as a coolie at the station in 2002. The then booking clerk hand over the station keys to him when the clerk got transferred to another station.
“Since then I have been guarding the station. A new booking clerk was posted here on deputation but he does not work here. The clerk on deputation gives me Tk 350 per month as fuel cost to light the signal,” said Saiful.
Despite odds, he works there in hope of getting a permanent job at railway, said Saiful.
Day labourer Abdul Jabbar, 45, at Mirzganj station said the booking clerk of the station went on retirement five years ago. Some days before his retirement, the clerk handed over the responsibilities of the station to him and since then he has been taking care of it.
“I work here almost for free with the hope that I will be recruited officially in near future,” said Jabbar.
GM Shahidul Islam said 73 stations in the west zone were closed due to manpower shortage and they are likely to start recruitment soon to bring back momentum in the railway.