Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
On 25th August, hundreds of track maintainers working in Central Railway, demonstrated in front of the office of the General Manager, Central Railways at CST Mumbai. Workers from across Maharashtra from far off places like Chandrapur, Nagpur, Dhamangaon, Sholapur, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Pune, Nasik so also Mumbai and Thane joined the demonstration led by Shri Sushant Zodape, President and Shri Ram Naresh Paswan, General Secretary of Central Railway Track Maintainers Union (CRTU). Some workers from other departments of Central Railway also joined the demonstration. Anger and frustration of the demonstrators was quite visible. Their slogans like “Track maintainers unity zindabad”, “Railway workers zindabad”, “We want GDCE exam”, “Down with Tanashahi of Railway officials” resounded in the area around CST station.
Nowadays many post graduates and graduates join the Indian Railways for the posts in categories where extreme physical work is required like track maintainer category. In all such categories promotional opportunities are minimal. Hence, they always eagerly await an opportunity to move to other categories where the promotional opportunities are a little more. Due to their struggles in the past, the Indian Railways management has been forced to conduct General Departmental Competitive Examination (GDCE) which provides such an opportunity. On 16th December 2019, the Railway Recruitment Cell (RRC) of Central Railway released a notification for recruitment to the posts of Junior Clerk, Senior Clerk, etc. by conducting the GDCE. Thousands of Central Railway workers from Group D category, grade pay grade 1800 and 1900, completed the process of applying for the examination and started studying in preparation for the examination.
Many of them gave up promotion to a higher pay grade as they would be disqualified if they moved to a higher pay grade. The Central Railway RRC continued to postpone the GDCE giving excuses like Covid pandemic, etc. This angered the railway workers, since they never shirked from their duty even during the Covid. Sensing their anger, RRC released a notification on 21 October 2022 asking the railway workers to submit their applications for GDCE latest by 28 November 2022. This once again aroused hope in the hearts of thousands of railway workers.
Nothing further happened till 27 July 2023 when suddenly the RRC put up a notice summarily cancelling the GDCE for all other posts excluding Station Masters post, thus shattering their hopes. The notice of 27 July does not give any reasons for the cancellation of the GDCE except a terse remark “…..it has now been decided to cancel both the previous notifications due to administrative requirement with the approval of competent authority.” (see the attached notice below)
This arbitrary high-handed behavior has justifiably angered railway workers. Many of them who gave up promotion in their existing category are demanding that the Indian Railways should make good their loss. Many are worried that by the time the next GDCE is conducted they may be “age barred”. All of them are hence demanding that the GDCE must be conducted by RRC immediately.
On 25 August 2023 they demanded to meet the General Manager (GM) of the Centra Railway. But even though the GM was well aware of the demonstration and their desire to meet him many days before, he arrogantly refused to meet them. “If a MLA or MP or some political bigwig would have come to meet him, the GM would have left everything aside and rushed to meet them. But he does not have even five minutes for the aggrieved track maintainers on whose efforts run the wheels of the Indian Railways” was how an angry railway worker expressed his anger.
Finally when angry workers refused to go away and organized a “sit in” in front of the GMs office, the Chief Personnel Officer addressed them promising that the GM would revert with his response to their letter within 10 days. The demonstration was then called off with workers declaring that they will intensify their agitation if their demand is not accepted.
The Indian Railway administration is constantly pressurizing various zonal railway chiefs to surrender posts in their zones. This seems to be the main reason for the cancellation of the recruitment of the GDCE. This affects not only track maintainers but rail workers of all categories. The demonstration thus represented anger of all workers of the Central Railway.