Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
The Indian Railways (IR) are the lifeline of India. They transport more passengers daily than even the population of countries like Australia. Likewise, they transport essential goods to practically every part of the country. Sparing no thought for their own safety, the hard-working workers of the IR kept the circulation of essentials moving even when a deadly pandemic was raging.
There is no doubt that their services are essential; what are horrifying are their working conditions – overwork and the resulting implications on health, unsafe work in many cases, very few opportunities for promotion… the list is endless. In this backdrop, the Station Masters of the IR, organised under the banner of All India Station Masters Association (AISMA), determined to take up their problems for solution. After official channels failed to produce any results whatsoever, they had to resort to struggle. Writing to various authorities, dharnas at various places, wearing black badges, hunger strikes, lighting candles in night shifts – the station maters left no stone unturned to make the blind authorities see and the deaf administration hear. In all this, the station masters ensured that the people were not inconvenienced in any way – the trains ran normally.
When everything failed, there was no option but to strike. Here too, the AISMA showed special consideration to the passengers by advising them to plan their travel keeping in view the strike on May 31.
True to its principle of “An attack on one is an attack on all!”, the Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) organised a meeting on an internet platform on May 29, 2022, where leaders of various unions and associations expressed their firm support to the station masters’ struggle. Leaders of All India Station Masters Association (AISMA), All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA), All India Guards Council (AIGC), All India Train Controllers Association (AITCA), All India Railway Track Maintainers Union (AIRTU), All India Pointsmen Association (AIPMA), Indian Railway Ticket Checking Staff Organization (IRTCSO) and Indian Railway Loco Runningmen’s Organisation (IRLRO) were the invited speakers.
There were a large number of participants from among railway workers of all categories as well as those working in other services, industries and people at large. The atmosphere was electric, the show of unity palpable. All the speakers expressed their gratitude to KEC for carrying their voice to all corners of the country, to their comrades from other categories of the railways, as well as to all else who had supported them. The speakers form other categories expressed their heartfelt appreciation to the station masters for taking up the difficult task of organising a strike with so much courage and commitment.
Dr. Mathew, the General Secretary of KEC, welcomed the participants and requested Shri Ashok Kumar, Joint Secretary, KEC to conduct the meeting.
Com. Dharamveer Singh Arora (Zonal President, Central Railway, AISMA) thanked all associations and federations for supporting the station masters’ strike and KEC for organising this meeting and explained the various demands of AISMA. He stressed that the struggles of the station masters is a struggle of all categories as all railway employees are facing problems. He described how thought eh workload keeps increasing due to the increasing number of trains, the government has been violating rules and depriving the railway workers of their just dues.
Com. Mathew (General Secretary, KEC) expressed the solidarity of KEC to AISMA.
The invited speakers, Shri KC James (Joint General Secretary, AILRSA), Shri Chandan Chaturvedi (Secretary General, AITCA), Shri Kanta Raju (General Secretary, AIRTU), Dr. Hemant Soni (General Secretary, IRTCSO), Shri Amzad Baig (Central President, AIPMA), Shri Navin Kumar (Indian Railways S&T Maintainers’ Union) then addressed the meeting. Everyone appreciated the spirit of Shri Kanta Raju who was ill but still participated and addressed the gathering from his hospital bed.
The interesting points brought out by various speakers were:
- There is almost 20% vacancy in station master posts in India; approximately 6800 posts are vacant.
- The number of vacancies among train controllers is so high that the administration has no way of filling it. Station masters and guards are being made to do the work of controllers. Thus, there is vacancy in every category.
- The administration creates a vacancy bank and then surrenders the vacant posts. Recently, 91,000 posts were surrendered. Moreover, 50% non-safety posts were identified for surrendering.
- A common Charter of demands should be worked out and a representation should be sent to the Finance Ministry by all the organisations together.
- No demand should be raised by one category against any other category.
There was an insistent suggestion for a joint committee of category associations to be formed. A number of speakers urged the KEC to call such a meeting.
Dr.Soni declared that the IRTCSO is ready to host the first physical meeting anywhere in the country.
After the speeches of the leaders, Shri Ashok Kumar showed videos of Com. Shailendra Dubey (Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation and leader of National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers) and Com. C J Nandkumar (President, Bank Employees Federation of India) extending their support to AISMA in the meeting of All India Forum Against Privatisation (AIFAP) on 22 May 2022. The floor was then opened for interventions.
Shri Kameswara Rao (Zonal President, AIREC/SC Zone and Editor, Rail Sakthi), Shri Baidyanath Saha (Divisional Secretary, AISMA, Vijayawada, SC Railway), Shri Sharadchandra Purohit, (General Secretary, AISMA, NW Railway), Shri KC Meena (Media Head, Northern Railwaymen’s Union), Shri Ashok Kumar Pandey (Senior Traffic Instructor, ZRTI, EC Railway, Muzaffarpur), Shri Mahendra Gupta (Track Maintainer), Shri A N Tiwari (National Vice President, AISMA) and Shri Sanjay Pandhi (Working President IRLRO), all of whom are leaders from different branches of the railways expressed their views. Dr. Sanjeewani Jain (Vice President, Lok Raj Sangathan) and Ms. Riya (activist of Purogami Mahila Sangathana) also talked.
The salient features from these interventions were:
- The horrible working conditions of the railway workers not only affected them, but also adversely affected the safety of all who travelled.
- The huge number of vacancies and contractualization is an attack on the whole working class, particularly on the unemployed youth.
- The number of railway workers is in lakhs, whereas the number of passengers is in crores. It is imperative to educate them and mobilise them to support the struggle of railway workers. This is the experience of all successful struggles.
- We also need to look at this system, in which the elected so-called representatives of the people are totally unaccountable to them.
Shri Ashok Kumar promised that the KEC would look seriously at all the valuable suggestions, and discuss with the various associations about how to take them up. The meeting ended with the common resolve, articulated by him: “We will further strengthen our unity; we will involve the people at large in our struggle. We shall win!”Upload.KEC Speech May 29th.final