On the 31st of May 2018 from 10 AM onwards, Guards and Loco Pilots of Indian Railways belonging to AIGC and AILRSA, jointly demonstrated at Titlagarh, Sambalpur Division, East Coast Railway. They were protesting against a notice issued by the local railway authorities of Sambalpur dated 29/05/2018, asking the Guards and Loco Pilots to carry trolley bags which would include all the safety equipment currently being used by Guards and Loco Pilots of the Indian Railways.
It is to be noted that till date it was the responsibility of the railway authorities to deliver a line box to both the loco pilot and guard running the train at the start of the train trip. This line box contained all the safety equipment, which includes work instructions, safety manuals, torches, batteries, detonators, working tools etc . Also for Guards additional first aid kit is also included in the line box. Previously there were box boys, who were regular railway employees, designated to do this job but now these have been replaced by contract workers. These line boxes are delivered in the engine and guard van for the loco pilot and guard respectively. These boxes themselves weigh 15 to 20 Kgs each. After the end of the train’s journey the line boxes are similarly removed from the engine and guard van by contract railway workers.
As per the circular issued by the local rail authorities of Sambalpur Division, they directed the Guards and Loco Pilots to carry all the safety equipment themselves in trolley bags which would be supplied by the railway authorities. During Sign on they should collect the trolley bag and during sign off they should deposit the trolley bag. This is obviously done with the intention of reducing the cost of contract workers and also shifting the responsibility of transporting these critical equipment onto the shoulders of the already overworked loco pilots and guards.
It is this totally unwarranted and unjust move of the authorities that the loco pilots and guards of Sambalpur were protesting. In a joint memorandum submitted to the authorities by AIGC and AILRSA, the Guards and Loco pilots pointed out that each of them had to carry personal luggage including change of clothing, food and water(for minimum 12 hours), personal accessories etc. itself weighing around 15 Kgs for each trip. In addition to this how can they be expected to carry another trolley bag weighing 15-20 Kgs. Also they would be moving through crowded passenger areas with this bag which had explosive materials inside which again is unsafe. In addition this would be physically exhausting and unsafe as they would be distracted from their main job of ensuring safe running of the train. All the Guards and Loco Pilots jointly submitted a signed memorandum that they unanimously opposed this move and jointly demonstrated at Titlagarh Railway Station, that they will not report for work till the authorities withdrew the circular.
Seeing the militant mood of the loco pilots and the guards, the authorities agreed to withdraw the circular on the 31st of May 2018 itself.
It is to be noted that this is not the first time the Railway Authorities have tried to force the loco pilots and guards to carry trolley bags. They had tried it earlier in Howrah Division and there also the united protest of the guards and loco pilots had forced them to withdraw their actions. It is seen that where there is unity of the guards and drivers they are not able to implement their anti-worker policies. Seeing that if they introduce this all over India there will be a massive protest, the authorities are trying to introduce this move piece meal in different parts of India.
That Guards and Loco Pilots of Sambalpur Division have been successful in opposing the unjust acts of the railway authorities through their united protest gives a boost in their efforts to build their unity through their respective fighting organisations, AILRSA and AIGC.