Interview of National President Shri Mukesh Gautam by Representative of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar
M.E.L: Please tell us that how many ticket checking staff are currently working in Indian railways and what their main concerns are.
Mukesh Gautam: As of now there are 32000 male and female ticket checking staff. Our main concern is the heavy targets which are given by rail management. Rail management forces us to bring at least 20 cases per day. If we don’t complete or fall short of target we are transferred to far distant locations. That creates lot of trouble for most of the ticket checking staff. Along with this there many other kinds of mental harassment of the staff by rail management. Our second main concern is, we are not considered in running staff category and as a result we do not get benefits which our fellow guards and loco pilots get. If we see in terms of working conditions and working hours it is nearly the same as those of guards and loco pilot. Our checking staff working on mail and express train has long duty hours and have to be far away from home. But, we are not provided proper rest rooms. Rest rooms are not available at many stations and in those station where rest rooms are available, they not in proper condition. Beds are covered with several layers of dirt, with no fan. Neither is hygiene maintained nor is clean drinkable water available. In some places, fans are installed but they are not working as no one is there to look after these rest rooms. It creates a lot of problems and even more so in summer season.
We are not provided adequate security in case of checking ticketless travellers. There are many cases where passenger jumps off train and dies while seeing us checking tickets. We are made victims and responsible for that over which we have no control
M.E.L.: What kind of work pressure and mental stress is there on ticket checking staff?
Mukesh Gautam: There are nearly 40,000 vacant positions of ticket checking staff in Indian Railway excluding retiring staff. As per law we are assigned to check three coaches per ticket checking staff whereas we are made to check at least 6 coaches. As per law we are supposed to stop passengers without proper tickets from boarding the train. We would like to ask management how it is possible for one ticket checking staff to cover 24 doors of 6 coaches. Every year in summer there is announcement of new trains along with festival trains whereas number of ticket checking staff remains same. As a result we are made to work longer hours. We have been consistently demanding from railway to fill vacant post of ticket checking staff at the earliest.
M.E.L.: Is there recruitment on contract basis in ticket checking? What is your and your organisation’s stand on privatisation of railway?
Mukesh Gautam: So far it has not been started but we cannot rule this out because railway is being privatised in parts and this is also one part of privatisation. My organisation and I believe that privatisation of railways is a very dangerous course. We all rail workers need to understand that there is no positive outcome of privatisation in any way. Neither one can get safety nor security forget about quality. I would like to give example of this as earlier railway was providing clean bedsheet, quilt and blanket now it has been handed over to contactors. To make maximum profit, contractor uses same bedsheet, pillow and blanket again and again without proper washing. Another example is of the pantry car, for every long distance train there used to be a pantry car where you could expect some quality food but now it has been handed over to contractors. In short, I shall say that our country is being pushed in a disastrous direction through privatisation of railways.
If we railway workers are consulted about railway movement and running, we can plan better and more efficient ways of running the trains and providing comfortable travel for common public. Government never takes suggestions of intellectuals like me who are leading fighting organisations as our suggestions will benefit common people and not Indian and foreign capitalists.
After 2014 election NDA government formed Kayakalp committee consisting of Ratan Tata, Shivgopal Mishra (AIRF) and Raghuwaiya (NFIR). What does Ratan Tata know of conditions of the Indian Railways? Those people are made committee members who have nothing to do with railways. Can you expect Ratan Tata to take stand against privatisation of the railways? No. Railway workers are very unhappy with both National Federation of Indian railway and All India Railway Federation.
M.E.L.: When was IRTCSO formed? What are your responsibilities and post in organisation? What can be done to improve rail travelling? How can we unite other sector employee?
Mukesh Gautam: IRTCSO was established in 1968. I took the post of National President in 2012. As far as passenger’s comfort and safe travel is concerned, it will be possible when railway workers and passengers unite and privatisation is completely halted and reversed. We need to raise consciousness level of workers. There are many workers in the railways who have been working for several years but are not aware of their rights. This is not their mistake but of their leaders who are holding big posts. They don’t educate their cadre. To continue our struggle we have to make our cadre strong so that they can unite. Ever since I have assumed as National President, I have tried to educate my fellow workers and provide them right opportunity to lead struggles. This has been the reason that our organisation is strong. My fellow colleagues are trained to use print as well as electronic media.
Apart from above I would like to tell you that even today government looks at us with British perspective. As I told you earlier that we were removed from the running staff category and it happened in 1932 when our staff helped freedom fighters in colonial time against the British rule. Since then we have been consistently fighting for the inclusion as running staff and we shall continue till we get it.
M.E.L.: We thank you for the interview and we will support your just demands.
Mukesh Gautam: Thanks