In October 2017, the Railway Board had put forward a proposal for the closure of Parel Workshop and the creation of a passenger terminus in its place. The workers of Parel Workshop have been agitating against this anti-worker and anti-social proposal ever since.
On 4th October 2019, the GM (Central Railway) sent concrete proposals to the Railway Board to a) Relocate the activities currently undertaken by Parel Workshop to other workshops such as Matunga, Jabalpur and Kurduwadi Workshops, b) Relocate the existing 2500 workers to Matunga (in Mumbai) and Badnera (in Amravati district of Maharashtra).
The workers of Parel Workshop immediately formed a Loco Karkhana Parel Bachao Samiti or Save Parel Workshop Committee. The major unions of the workers including Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh, SC & ST Association, Rail Kamgar Sena, Central Railway Engineers Association, Maharashtra Navnirman Rail Kamgar Sena, OBC Association and Rail Mazdoor Union all came together under this banner.
On October 11th hundreds of workers from the Parel Workshop marched to the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Office, CSMT (Mumbai) under the banner of this Committee to protest against the reply sent by the GM to the Railway Board and presented a memorandum to him. On October 14th, the National Railway Men’s Union staged a demonstration inside the workshop opposing the closure of the workshop.
The memorandum submitted by the workers explains why the move of the railway authorities is not only anti-worker, but anti-social as well.
Parel Workshop is the oldest workshop of Central Railway started in 1879. Though it started out as a locomotive repairing workshop, from 2005 it started building locomotives, both narrow gauge and broad gauge. There is no other workshop in India which has the collective competency to carry out the works being done currently by Parel workshop such as Periodic Overhaul (POH) of 140 T Cowans Sheldon DBHD cranes, building of narrow gauge heritage locomotives as well as supplying 8000 wheel sets to carriages and engines.
Just recently that Rs. 50 crores was invested by the Railways in Parel workshop for MLR (Mid Life Rehabilitation) of ICF coaches. Rs. 88 crores was sanctioned for building infrastructure in Parel for maintenance of LHB (Linke Hofmanne Busche) coaches inducted into Central Railway 10 years ago. This is urgently required by Central Railways.
Why would the authorities shut down such a vital workshop? Why would they waste so much of public money? None of the preparatory work to build a terminus has started, such as acquiring land, widening of existing over bridge at Karol, etc. The fact that they are forging ahead without taking the 2500 workers of Parel workshop or their unions into confidence shows what their real intentions are.
The current value of all assets in the Parel workshop excluding the land is Rs. 1140 crores. The 45 acres of its land in the heart of Mumbai City is valued at over Rs. 10,000 crores. The workers realise that big corporate developers are eyeing this land greedily and the authorities are dancing to their tune.
There are 600 units of staff quarters in the Railway colony adjacent to the workshop. These will also be demolished to make way for the terminus. The railway has no plans for making another 600 units anywhere, thus adding to the acute housing shortage of railway workers working in Mumbai, especially for emergency staff such as loco pilots, station masters, guards, etc. who are needed close to their headquarters.
Building a railway terminus at Parel will add to the already existing traffic jams on the main arterial road, Dr. Ambedkar Road, which passes adjacent to the workshop. According to international consultants appointed by the Railways themselves, new terminals are required to be built in the suburbs where the majority of people stay, and not in the heart of the city which is already congested. Creating a railway terminus will only add to the problem of waterlogging in this area during rainy season adding to the woes of the residents of the area.
MEL fully supports the just demands of the railway workers and calls on them to unitedly step up their opposition to the nefarious plans of the railway authorities to close down a fully functional workshop in the interst of corporate real estate developers.