The text of the statement issued at the initiative of the Lok Raj Sangathan by the following organizations working in Mumbai on May 29, 2010 is reproduced below. It has been distributed to tens of thousands of workers in the financial capital of India, and has received huge support cutting across different sections of the working class and people.
Lok Raj Sanghathan, Kamgar Ekta Chalwal, Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU), Airport Authority of India Employees Union(AAEU), AIUTUC, BSNL Employees Union, BSNL Labour Contract and Contract Employees Union, HMKP, Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha, Jagrut Ghar Kamgar Sangathan, Joint Action Forum of Central Railway and Western Railway Motormen & Loco Running Staff, Ladaku Garment Kamgar Sangathana, Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD),Trade Union Solidarity Committee (TUSC) and Voltas Employees Union.
From the early hours of the morning of May 3rd 2010, nearly a thousand motormen running the local trains of Mumbai went to work without food or water. By late evening, under exhaustion of not taking food or water whole day, these motormen started collapsing while doing their strenuous duty and had to be taken to hospitals. As we all know, the entire trains came to a stand still from Monday evening till Tuesday, 4th May evening.
In January 2010, the motormen announced their intention to go on Mass casual leave on 26th January, a National holiday. They desisted when Railway authorities promised to look into their grievances urgently. But as usual, these were just promises and nothing moved. Thus the motormen were forced to take to agitation and they decided to protest by going to work without food or water. Though most of us working people had to undergo hardship, we working people in our hearts supported these motormen because we know that strike is the last resort for all of us, when the authorities refuse to listen to our grievances. And here were these small number of brave men who dared to challenge the mighty railway administration fully backed by the Government at the state and in the center.
Why are the Motormen agitating?
Less than thousand motormen ferry 40 lakh daily commuters in Mumbai. According to Indian railways own rules, passenger and express mail trains which carry over 1,400 people must be provided with an Assistant loco pilot. However Mumbai locals carry anywhere between 5000 to 6000 passengers nowadays in 12 coach trains whereas when the local train services were started there were only 3 coaches and carried less than 300 passengers! The Railway authorities have refused to recognize the changed circumstances. In addition Motormen have to work all seven days a week without a weekly off and they do not have regular shift timings. They do not get off even on National holidays, and many times due to shortage of manpower they have to work for extra time, putting more strain on them and making it really unsafe for passengers. They are paid less than a quarter day’s pay as a compensation for working on National holidays and have offered to return back this measly compensation to the railways & instead are asking for rest on National holidays.
Motormen are demanding payment of arrears due from Jan 2006 onwards as per 6th Pay Commission recommendations. They are asking for allowances & proper scale for new recruits as per these recommendations.
Brothers & sisters,
Instead of accepting these just demands and discussing how to resolve them with the motormen, the railway authorities have consistently refused to negotiate with them forcing them to resort to agitation. The railway authorities with the full backing of the Central and State Government started attacking the Motormen. The railway authorities suspended the leaders and the Central Government threatened to impose ESMA. The Railway authorities went to court and asked the court to order that the loss due to the railways from the strike be recovered from the agitating motormen! All of us, the signatories to this leaflet, denounce Government and the railway authorities for these thoroughly anti worker actions. We are sure that all the working people will also denounce them for this. If at all anybody should be penalized for the suffering of Motormen and the public at large, it is the concerned government officials and responsible Ministers and Railway Authorities who should be made to pay. It is they who have delayed acceding to the just demands of Motormen.
Brothers & sisters,
Government is repeatedly using ESMA against all fighting working people. If Government also agrees that Railways is an essential service, then what has the government done to reduce the plight of more than 40 lakh commuters who use local trains everyday? Aren’t we all treated like animals? Even if you want to transport cattle in a railway break-van there is an upper limit on how many can be loaded in one break-van. But for us human beings there is no limit!
Whenever teachers want to agitate, government suddenly remembers plight of students and declares teaching an essential service. But the same government does not hesitate to allow enormous increase in fees so that Private educational institutions can mint money thus depriving millions of needy students from education!
Whenever Doctors, nurses or other health sector employees want to agitate, Government declares it’s ‘love & concern’ for patients by declaring health services as essential. But the same government allows massive profit margins to pharmaceutical companies & systematically closes down or throttles functioning of Government hospitals by not giving them funds, so that private hospitals can mint money!
Whenever BEST workers want to agitate, the Government accuses them of “holding the public to ransom”! But very few of us know that the BEST management actually has reduced the salaries of these hard working drivers and conductors and that is the reason for the discontent among them.
When recently the Airline Employees of Air India went on strike the management terminated the services of 15 union leaders, holding them accountable. But what about the accountability of the management which stubbornly refuses to listen to the workers grievances?
What about the accountability of the State and Central Governments which even after 60 years of Independence have created a situation where 40% of the population is living in semi starvation conditions, 50% are illiterate and vast majority do not have access to health facilities?
The list is endless. In our country, working people are supposed to slog no matter what and it is their “Essential duty” which Government is bound to ensure. While at the same time big capitalist companies and corporations and big shot officials and Netas are supposed to mint money and it is their “right” which Government is bound to ensure.
Brothers and sisters,
We must denounce such attacks on working people’s struggle unequivocally.
We must all support the Motormen’s just struggle.
We must not allow Courts to penalize struggling working people.