On 15th November 2019, All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) held a meeting against Privatisation of Railways at Panvel Branch of Mumbai Division. Kamgar Ekta Committee was invited to give a presentation on privatisation at this meeting. The meeting was chaired by Comrade R.k Sharma, Secretary, Mumbai Division, AILRSA and addressed by Com D. S. Koparkar, Zonal Secretary, Central Railway, AILRSA.
Com Koparkar reported that the meeting was being held as per the decision of the CWC meeting of AILRSA held on 24th September at Bangalore on 15th November, that conventions should be held against privatisation all over India. He then addressed specific issues facing loco pilots of Indian Railways.
Com Koparkar pointed out that loco pilots are blamed for accidents that are not due to their carelessness. He pointed out to a recent instance of suspension a loco pilot because of SPAD (Signal passing at Danger). The ALP (assistant loco pilot) had called out the signal but the loco pilot picked the wrong signal and passed the red signal. It was because the signal was located on the left hand side (LHS) rather than on the right hand side (RHS), which is the norm. This confused the driver, resulting in the violation. It is not correct that the pilot should be victimised under SPAD. Loco pilots must unite to fight against this injustice and other unjust demands being made of them at work.
Eight loco pilots have been removed from service all over India for protesting the authorities’ decision to force loco pilots to carry out the fitting of coupling of engine to other bogies, a job which was done by other railway employees previously. Their rest hours have been reduced due to a shortage of loco pilots. The authorities are sending loco inspectors to the homes of loco pilots mobilising their wives to ensure that the loco pilots are able to rest when they come home. In Bhusaval division of Central Railway, the women took out a morcha against the authorities saying that the loco pilots are not coming home even after 48 hours of duty.
On 16th and 17th July 2019, 4000 loco pilots had gathered in New Delhi demanding kilometre allowance as per 1981 formula of Bhalla Committee. Just when AILRSA was going to give a strike notice, the authorities announced an increase from Rs 225 to Rs 525 for 100 Km as kilometre allowance. This was a deliberate move to defuse our struggle. The Seventh Pay Commission recommendations were announced on 1st July 2017, but it took them two years to declare the revised kilometre allowance. Even so, it is Rs 223 per 100 km lower than the Bhalla Committee recommendations. In the10 years till the recommendation of the next Pay Commission this will mean a loss of Rs 15 to Rs 20 lakhs for the loco pilots.
A judge has not been made available since the last three years for the ongoing case at National Industrial Tribunal, Mumbai, regarding the demands of Loco Pilots!
Com Koparkar pointed out that the Railways have removed the C&W (Coaches and Wagon) Department and now they want to remove the Guards from goods trains. They are planning to remove the RPF (Rail Protection Force ) personnel. Soon they will introduce trains without loco pilots. They are privately training 2000 assistant loco pilots in Government training schools to run private trains.
Regarding NPS, the new pension scheme, the deduction is not being made for the last two years and the Government’s 14 per cent and the loco pilots’ contribution is not being accumulated. With NPS there is no guaranteed pension since the government has decided to hand over management of pension funds to private corporations. The returns depend on the market; the pension may fall to as low as Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 per month; whereas under the Old Pension Scheme the family was compensated for insufficient family income.
While on the one hand, a rule has been introduced that Central Government employees will be compulsorily retired after completing 30 years of service or 55 years of age whichever is earlier, several retired railway employees are being reemployed, but at 50% of their previous drawn salary.
It was announced at the meeting that on December 8th, the loco pilots of central railway will take out a morcha to the General Manger, Central Railway at Mumbai CST putting forth their demands and opposing privatisation. The authorities say AILRSA is unrecognised but actually the Government and the rail authorities fear AILRSA.
The meeting called upon the railway workers to oppose the anti-worker actions of the authorities through their own 100 day Action Plan in response to the Government’s 100 day action plan to privatise the Indian Railways.
After this Comrade Mathew, Secretary of Kamgar Ekta Committee, gave a detailed power point presentation, explaining how the government had stealthily carried out its privatisation plans step by step all the while fooling the workers that railways was not going to be privatised. He explained that it is the agenda of the ruling capitalist class, headed by 150 monopoly corporate groups that is being followed by this government as was done by earlier governments. He gave the example of privatisation of Railways in Britain and Argentina which had to be reversed due to rising train fares, increasing accidents and closure of so called non-profit making routes by private operators. The meeting concluded with a resolve to intensify the opposition to privatisation of Railways and the injustices against the loco pilots.