Mazdoor Ekta Lehar (MEL) interviewed Comrade A.K.Srivastava (AKS) on current issues facing the Railway workers as well as other workers.
MEL: Recently the Railways announced that it plans to fill 90,000 vacancies in the Indian Railways and claimed it is one of the biggest recruitment ever planned. Could you comment on it?
AKS: As per a reply given by the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to a written question in the Lok Sabha recently, the total number of vacant posts in the Indian Railways is 2,22,509. The number of posts lying vacant in safety cadres, which includes loco pilots, guards, station masters etc., over all zonal railways is 1,28,942 as of April 2017. The number of vacant position of loco pilots is 17,500 and of guard is 4500.
The Railway authorities have announced that not all the posts are going to be filled by permanent posts. Only what are declared as “essential posts” will be filled by regular workers, while the rest will be outsourced. Recruiting 90000 workers is not even going to fill half the required number of vacancies and the remaining half will be outsourced.
The proposed recruitment drive must be seen in the background of the fact that there has been no major recruitment in the Indian Railways for the last two years. This has caused a severe strain on the workers of the railways including the guards and drivers who have had to bear the extra burden of work caused due to shortage of staff.
Also as can be seen from the recent agitation of apprentices in Mumbai on the 20 March 2018, there is massive discontent among the young apprentices who have completed their apprenticeship but are unable to get jobs in the Railways.
MEL: How many Guards are being recruited as part of this 90,000?
AKS: The break-up of this 90,000 jobs given by the Railways is a) 26,500 Assistant Loco Pilots and Technicians b) 63,000 Group D workers c) 420 Junior Engineers and d) 410 Pointsmen and Station Masters. As can be seen there is no plan to recruit guards to fill the vacant positions amongst guards.
This shows that the Railway authorities are hell bent to implement their dangerous plan of replacing the goods guards with EOTT Machines. This move is preparing the grounds for major accidents in the coming years.
The Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS) has emphasised the critical role of the guards. Whenever an accident or incident happens on the Indian Railways, it is the report of the guard on duty which gives the complete information on the causes of the accident/incident which is used by the Railways to ensure that the same is not repeated. In the absence of the guard, the reason for any accident/incident will not be ascertained and the same will be repeated. Hence, for ensuring safe rail travel it is most important that not a single post of guard should lie vacant and all the vacant posts should be filled by qualified graduates, of which there are a large number of unemployed in the country currently.
The AIGC will oppose tooth and nail all attempts to reduce the number of guards as this is directly against the interests of the travelling public as well as the workers and property of the Indian Railways.
MEL: There is a lot of discontent among Railway workers with the New Pension Scheme (NPS) introduced by the Central Government in 2004. What is your view on this?
AKS: On 30th April, 2018, 35 organisations have called for a mass rally at Ram Lila Maidan, New Delhi to chalk out a course of action. These organisations represent the Central and State Government employees. All sections of government employees from Class I to Class IV will be represented. They are all demanding the abolishment of the NPS and reversion to the old pension scheme.
There should be one uniform rule for all employees. In 2004 the then NDA Government, led by the Prime Minister Vajpayee, changed the rules such that the employees of Central and State Governments who join service after 2004 will not be eligible to receive pension as per existing rules but would be covered under the New Pension Scheme (NPS).
This NPS is completely unacceptable to the employees. Now in 2018, since those employed before 2004 are reducing in numbers and those employed after 2004 are increasing in numbers, these young workers are demanding the cancellation of the NPS. They question why politicians, MPS and MLA’s can get pension under the Old Pension Scheme while Government workers are denied the same. They ask that when army, airforce and navy personnel get pension under old pension scheme, why rest of government employees are denied the same.
The government employees are planning to launch a mass agitation to realise their demand. Initially a two day All India Strike is being planned.