Recently the Indian Railways announced that it would “re-engage” retired workers to fill the vacancies in for all categories of workers in the maintenance, operating and commercial departments. Towards this end it has already started “re-engaging” workers who retired at 60 years in these departments subject to a maximum age limit of 65 years. These workers are “reengaged” for two years by hiring them at 50% of the salary last drawn without HRA and transport allowances. They have to work the full working day like all employees. If their performance is found satisfactory, they may be further extended for another two years so long as the age does not cross 65 years. Only Loco pilots and guards are not being “reengaged”.
As per a reply given by the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to a written question in the Lok Sabha recently, the total number of vacancies in the Indian Railways is 2,22,509. Of these, the vacancies in the safety category, which is directly responsible for the safe running of trains, which includes, loco pilots, guards, station masters, gangmen, Signal & Telecommunication staff etc. were 1,28,942, as of April 2017.
The policy of “reengaging” retired workers is another way of preventing recruitment of fresh workers and also of cutting down expenditure on salaries as a new recruit would be entitled to full benefits of salary with all allowances. Also by “re engaging” retired staff, the positions occupied by these retired staff are blocked for promotion from the ranks below them. Further, these retired staff cannot perform the duties of the young workers which are required in every department, since in most cases, apart from desk jobs, the duties are hazardous and strenuous. Such is the work in the workshops, track maintenance, S&T departments, Station Masters’ jobs etc. How can older workers who have crossed 60 years do the work expected of younger workers? This policy is against the safe and smooth running of the Indian Railways.
Recently, the Railways announced the recruitment of 90,000 rail workers. About 3.5 crore applications were received for these 90,000 posts. There has been no commitment of a date for the selection of applicants. There appears to be no real intention to recruit but only to pour cold water on the anger of unemployed youth. On the contrary, the Railways have made a lot of money from the application process. The applications for these 90,000 jobs closed on 31st March 2018. The Railway was charging Rs 500 per application except for SC/ST candidates. Even assuming 70% non SC/ST candidates, this amounts to Rs 1200 crores collection by the railways from applications alone!
It is suspected that the authorities are planning to hold off all new recruitment till the 2019 General Elections, and hoping thereafter to subsequently employ new workers on fixed term contracts. Hence the policy of “re-engagement” is being implemented. It is to be noted that on March 20, 2018, the Central Government had issued a notification allowing fixed term employment in all sectors. Fixed term employment means employment for a fixed period, the fixed period being any length suitable for the employer after which period it is entirely up to the employer whether to re-employ the same worker for the job or hire a new worker. If fixed term employment becomes a reality the trade union movement would be weakened as workers would be afraid to join a union fearing that they will not get extension once their fixed term contract expires.
The workers in the Indian Railways must unitedly oppose these policies being implemented by the railway authorities and, unitedly with all other sections of the working class, oppose the Fixed Term Employment as well as other anti-working class measures being adopted by the government.