Thousands of engine drivers and their families militantly and enthusiastically participated in a rally from the Bangaluru City Railway Station to the Central College grounds in the afternoon of May 16, 2012. Carrying the bright banners of the different zonal associations, the engine drivers raised militant slogans which expressed their unity and fighting spirit, the unity of the working class of India, and their resolve to fight for justice and a new society. As the rally passed through the busiest streets of Bangaluru, the working people of Bangaluru were witness to the energy and enthusiasm of those who run the engine of one of the biggest railways of the whole world, the Indian Railways. The rally ended in the public session of the Biennial conference of the All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA). The public session was addressed by Comrade KS Mani, Com K Parthasarathi, Com MM Roli and Com D Rajkumar, office bearers of the AILRSA and leaders of the South Western Railway branch of loco pilots, who were the main organizers and hosts of the Conference and Rally.
The rally and public session were part of the two day biennial All India General Body Meeting of the All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) which was held in Bangaluru on May 16 and 17, 2012. The Conference venue was named Com SK Dhar Nagar, and the Conference was held in the Jnana Jyothi Auditorium. A delegation of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar participated in the Conference and Rally as invited observers. Below we give a brief report of this program submitted by our correspondents.
Over one thousand delegates from the 15 different zones of the Indian Railways participated in the Conference. The families of the loco pilots also participated enthusiastically in the Conference. Com. L Mony, President of AILRSA presided over the convention.
The Conference began with an inaugural session, which was followed by the rally and public session. On the second day, the Conference heard the report of the Secretary, deliberated upon it, and discussed and adopted various resolutions. The Conference then elected the new office bearers of the AILRSA who were charged with the responsibility of guiding the work of the organization in the coming two years.
In the inaugural session, Com. V J K Nair, Vice-President, CITU and the Chairman of the Reception Committee called for resolute and united struggle against the capitalist program of globalisation through privatization and liberalization. He emphasized the importance of the unity of the trade unions of different sectors in the common struggle. Com. Basudeb Acharia, Member of Parliament spoke on the crisis in Indian Railways. He criticised the anti-worker, anti-people policies being pursued by the UPA government. He stressed the need to reduce duty hours of Loco pilots to 8 hours and grant calendar day weekly rest for which the loco pilots have been in struggle for the past five decades. He stressed the need to strengthen the unity among trade unions in Railways.
Com. Mathew, Convenor, Lok Raj Sangathan, Com. Amanulla Khan, President, All India Insurance Employees Association, Com. John Vincent Kumar, Secretary General, All India Station Masters Association, Com. R N Dixit, Secretary General, All India Guards Council, Com. R Elangovan, Working President, Dakshin Railway Employees’ Union, Com. Nirmal Mukerjee, General Secretary, Chittaranjan Loco Works Employees’ Union, Com Shankar, State Secretary, AICCTU, Com. P S Prasad, State Secretary, Co-ordination committee of Central Govt. Employees & workers, Com. Venkatesh Murthy, General Secretary, NREU, greeted the delegates and observers.
Com Matthew of the Lok Raj Sangathan was greeted with thunderous applause by the railmen when he got up to address them. This reflected the close relations established by the AILRSA and the Lok Raj Sangathan over the years, in the course of defending the rights of locomen as well as the rights of the entire working class in the face of the attacks of the ruling class. In a short but extremely militant speech, Com Mathew reiterated the complete support of the Lok Raj Sangathan as well as the Mazdoor Ekta Lehar to the just struggle of loco men.
"The Engine Drivers of India have always been the spearhead of the struggles of the railway workers for justice. This is one of the reasons that they want to keep torturing you and denying you adequate rest and compensation. …. I would now like to talk about the situation faced by the working class in our country as well as in the rest of the world. World over the capitalist system is in a crisis. This is a crisis of over-production. The working people are not able to buy the goods they themselves have made. …In India too the growth is slowing down. The Indian State is a totally parasitic state which exacts a huge tribute from society. The big banks and the armed forces claim the lion's share of the revenues of the Government obtained from taxing the working people. Very little is left for productive investment in the economy. ….The Economic Advisor to the Government, Kaushik Basu has said that the problem is because reforms are not being implemented. What reforms is he talking about? They want to change the labor laws, so that they can hire and fire easily. They want to ban strikes. They want to privatise the public sector to give people's property at throwaway prices to the capitalist class. They want to privatise water supply, health care, education, sanitation, road, rail and air transport and every other activity wherein capitalists smell the possibility of reaping in maximum profits. But how can these measures solve the problem? Instead, they will aggravate the problem. World over, the imperialist powers headed by the US are militarising the economy, unleashing wars of conquest. The most bloodthirsty imperialist forces have always seen in militarization, fascism and war, a way out of crisis at the cost of the working people at home as well as abroad. The Indian government is also busy militarizing at this time. "
Com Mathew added "We the working class, have the responsibility to come to the centre stage and become the ruling class. We need to develop our own independent program as a first step. We have to challenge the capitalist class and its mantra that “there is no alternative” Who will do this? I want to ask you that those among you who are ready to take up the work of building this alternative, please raise your hands." At this point, the majority of hands went up! Comrade Matthew concluded by declaring that "You Engine Drivers of India have a very important role in elaborating this alternative. The future belongs to the working class. I wish this Conference success in its deliberations."
In their addresses, speakers declared that the program of globalization through liberalization and privatization had led to immiseration of the majority of the population, the workers and peasants, even while it had enriched a small minority. The state is a capitalist state, and which ever government is formed, implements the program of the bourgeoisie. In order to isolate the bourgeoise and its program, we must put forth the alternate program of the working class. We must organize country wide discussion on the program of the working class. We must win country wide support amongst workers for this program. We must launch struggles all over the country to implement this program.
The speakers condemned the continuously rising prices as a well thought out strategy of the rulers to loot the working masses and enrich the capitalist class. They condemned the practice of outsourcing being increasingly resorted to in the public sector.
On the second day, the Conference heard the report of the Secretary General, Com MN Prasad of the activities of the organization in the two and half years since the 18th All India Conference of the AILRSA. This was followed by interventions by delegates from the different zonal delegations. A very enthusiastic and informed discussion followed. The loco pilots showed through their interventions that they were well aware of what is going on in the world and in our country, and the difficulties faced by the working class movement in our country and world wide today. At the same time, they showed both maturity and optimism in the strength of their cause, the cause of our class, the working class. They spoke bluntly about the weaknesses of the organization and the steps needed to make it stronger.
Among the delegates who intervened were: Com DS Koparkar—Central Railway, Com Lunaram and Com BN Bhardwaj —Western Railway, Com RC Shrivastava, Com MP Chowdhary—West Central Railway, Com. MP Deb, Com. Shankar Ghosh, DB Dey—Eastern Railways, Com. Paramjeet Singh, Com. RB Yadav, Com PK Ghosh, Com. Ravi Chandran, Com. Gurudev Singh, Com. Sanjay Sarkar, Gaurav Mittal, BS Srivastava, SK Cowdhary, Tejas Bhadoria —South-East Railway.
The Conference deliberated upon, and chalked out programs of agitation to achieve the just demands of the loco pilots such as reduction of duty hours, ending continuous night duty, enhancing grade pay, increasing running allowance, a weekly off, amongst others. The decision was taken to increase the membership of the AILRSA and strengthen the organization in all the 15 zones. It was emphasized that the loco running staff have an important role to play in organizing the entire railway work force.
Resolutions were adopted in defence of the sovereignty of India, in defence of the livelihood of the peasantry, in support of Air India Pilots and other Air India workers and in opposition to the privatisation of Air India, to defend the railways from destruction, and in support of the demands of the running staff.
The Conference concluded with the elections of the office bearers. Com L Mony was re-elected as the President and Com. MN Prasad as the General Secretary. The Concluding speech was presented by the General Secretary. The leader of the host railways, Com C Sunis of the South Western Railways concluded the proceedings, thanking all the participants.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar congratulates the loco pilots of our country for organizing this successful All India Conference of their organization, the AILRSA. The Conference revealed the great organizational strength of the loco pilots. It showed that the pilots are conscious of what is going on in our country and in the world. They have a big responsibility. This is to actively shoulder the responsibility of organizing the entire working class of our country behind the independent program of our class, for political power.