Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
As a part of the call given by the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) to ‘Save Railways, Save Nation!’ the National Railway Mazdoor Union (NRMU) successfully organized a meeting on 9th August 2022 at the Thane Railway Institute in Maharashtra. This event was organised to spread awareness among the workers and citizen groups about the disastrous effect of privatization of railways. The Indian Railways (IR) today offer the cheapest mode of public transport in the world today. The situation will drastically alter if we, the workers and passengers do not stop its privatisation.
The hall was packed with more than 250 NRMU activists including women. Slogans like “Long live Worker’s Unity!”, “Workers of the World Unite!”, “NRMU Zindabad!”, “Down with Privatisation of Indian Railways!”, “Inquilab Zindabad!” resounded in the hall.
Along with the Chief Guest of the event Com. Venu P Nair, GS/NRMU (CR) other office bearers of the union Com. P. J. Shinde, Com. Vishwas Sawant (WP), Com. Ashok Trivedi (HQS), Com. Kamakshi Bagalwadikar, Com. B. L. Yadav (AGSs) & Com. Jon Oommen ADS/BB were also invited on the dais and honoured. Com. M.D. Jagtap former Divisional President and an old guard of the union, was the special invitee.
Sanjeewani Jain, National Vice President of Lok Raj Sangathan, Trupti from Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Com. Girish and Com. Das both Joint Secretaries of Kamgar Ekta Committee were special invitees to the meeting. They were also welcomed to the dais.
While addressing the gathering Com. Venu P Nair spoke in detail about various aspects of privatization of Railways. There would be a negative impact on working conditions, employment opportunities, and social security. Rail travel would become unaffordable to crores. Public assets would be presented to corporate sharks at throwaway prices. In the Central Railway alone there are more than 30,000 thousand vacant posts. This not only creates undue burden on the current employees but also adversely impacts the service for passengers. He explained that the meeting in Thane is as per the all India call given by AIRF towards building committees of railway workers and other people at all main stations in the country to save the Indian Railways from privatisation. His declaration that NRMU will ensure that every single vacancy will be filled and that the strength of NRMU can successfully challenge the threat of further privatisation of railways was received with a thunderous applause. He called upon all the workers to educate others including their own family members about the ill effects of privatisation of not only Indian Railways but of any public sector undertaking.
Com. Girish explained that privatisation of public sector enterprises is an attack on all the working people of India. To prevent the privatisation of Indian Railways or of any public sector undertaking the united struggle of the workers of that enterprise along with the unity of workers of all public sector enterprises and the consumers is necessary. It is important to educate each other and the working people who are consumers of these services about the ill effects of privatisation.
Com. Girish explained the success achieved by All India Forum Against Privatisation (AIFAP) in bringing together all the major unions of almost all public sector undertakings to a common forum. Right from needles to airplanes, all the wealth of the country is created by the labour of working people of our country and hence we the working people should decide how the wealth will be utilised! This is the meaning of Inquilab. Workers and users of railways in various countries like Argentina, Britain etc. were successful in forcing the respective governments to reverse their privatisation. Rock solid unity with all the working people of our country will surely achieve the same in India, he said.
When Dr. Sanjeewani asked the audience whether we really have real democracy in India, many shouted “No!” Privatisation of public sector enterprises is being forced in spite of opposition by crores of workers and consumers; we the working people do not have any say in running the affairs of our country. The government had given a written promise to the kisans that the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 (EAB 2022) would not be passed. Now it is violating that promise, but there is no mechanism to hold it accountable. We the working people must work towards building the rule of the working people, Lok Raj, which alone can ensure that our country is governed in the interests of working people and not handful of super rich. Unity across different sections of workers and engineers and across different unions, associations and organisations of power sector workers and the support they have managed to get from consumers has forced the government on the backfoot about the EAB 2022. They have also been able to prevent the privatisation of electricity distribution in many states. All of us have a lesson to learn from the power sector workers!
Trupti explained the difficulties which women workers face due to the double responsibility, at work place and at home. She complimented all the women present in the meeting who are participating in union activities overcoming all challenges. Giving examples of Kisan Andolan and struggle by RINL workers she explained the decisive contribution of women in success of those struggles. She called upon all the union members to make special effort to mobilise women for the struggle against privatisation.
Com. Kamakshi Bagalwadikar spoke about the special efforts taken by NRMU leadership towards ensuring active participation of women activists in various bodies of the union.
In the concluding remarks Com. P. J. Shinde called upon all the union activists to strengthen the union so that it can successfully fight not only to solve their grievances but also to wage a determined struggle against privatisation.