The Center has appointed a one man Tribunal consisting of Justice Gauri Shankar Saraf to look into the four main demands of the agitating engine drivers. This has been a long standing demand of the All India Loco Running Staff Association, which has carried out many agitations for their demands.
As reported in earlier issues of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar, the Regional Labour Commissioner, New Delhi, had on October 10th 2010, declared the conciliation proceedings as failed and blamed the Railway Board for not cooperating. As per law, if conciliation proceedings are declared as failed, a National Tribunal has to be appointed within 45 days. However the Central Government and its labour department procrastinated over this, with the excuse that the “recognized Unions” were already in dialogue with the Railway Board on these issues. However, faced with the united struggles of the engine drivers all over India led by their Union, AILRSA, and the possibility of the engine drivers taking drastic action, the Central Government had to buckle down and appoint the National Tribunal.
The leadership of AILRSA addressed the engine drivers on February 20th at a public meeting at Kalyan, on the outskirts of Mumbai, and explained to them the significance of the events.
Comrade Badgusar explained that in the past, two committees had been appointed to look into the grievances of engine drivers. The first one was in 1947, the Rajadhyaksha Tribunal, and the second one in 1969, the Justice Miabhoy Tribunal. However these tribunals were not only for engine drivers, but for other categories of running staff as well. This was the first time that a Tribunal has been appointed to focus on the problems raised by engine drivers. The Justice Saraf Tribunal would look into the four main demands of the engine drivers a) anomaly in Grade Pay b) rate of running allowance to be fixed as per 1981 formula c) HOER - Hours of Employment Regulations and d) mileage.
The AILRSA Central Working President, Com Hanumaiah, said that AILRSA genuinely represented the engine drivers. Engine drivers are like hanuman, and somebody has to remind them about their strength. In the historic 1974 railway strike, AILRSA was in the forefront. We must build and strengthen our organization and carry forward the struggle.
Com Murali from Chennai Division, said that Railway Ministry and management is thoroughly anti worker and we must strengthen our unity across all divisions of the railways so we continue to put up united fight. Tribunals are the machineries of the Government to delay and beat us down and hence we must not have illusions about them. At the same time we must put forth our substantiated demands to the Tribunal. We must be prepared to come out on the streets to continue the battle for our rights.
Com Parthasarathi from Bangalore said that for the past three years we have been continuously in struggle. The AILRSA has been on the path of relentless agitation.
Comrade BS Rath, veteran leader of Western Railway Motormen called on the motormen to prepare to go on the offensive. We must point out to the entire working class how we are being deprived of our rights. Our work is not only extremely difficult, we are forced to take rest breaks away from our homes, so that the time we get at home is far less than what other workers get.
Comrade MN Prasad, All India General Secretary said that AILRSA was born in struggle. The entire system is under the control of the capitalist class. We engine drivers just on our own strength cannot change the policies of the Government on national issues. There is a need to unite all sections of the working class. Similarly, to win the demands of the drivers, it is not enough that only a few divisions struggle. The struggle must take place all over India. If we move our train at 30kmph, then nobody takes notice, but if we move at 105 kmph, then nobody can ignore us. He said that on 28th of February, there will be an all India Strike. It was unfortunate that organising unions did not consider it important to involve rail unions such as AILRSA in the preparations for this strike, or call on them to participate in the strike.
According to the report of the CAG- the most corrupt department is the Indian Railways. The Railways had set a target to carry 800 million tons of goods last year, but we hauled 900 million tones. But why are the Railways still running at a loss? The Railways does not have money to maintain itself, forget about adding new infrastructure. This is a result of the loot of the Railways by the ministers and officials.
Because of the continuous struggles waged by AILRSA, Mamata Banerjee had sent the police to investigate whether we were Maoists, leftists, rightists or centrists. But we told them that we are not any one of these. We are for a workers front. We have been continuously struggling. In 1975, Indira Gandhi had talked in Parliament for 20 minutes on how she will finish off AILRSA. If a TV could be sent to her wherever her soul is, she would see that far from being dead we are growing.
In conclusion, he announced that on February 24, 2012, AILRSA would organize demonstrations in front of DRM’s (Division Railway Management) office all over the country, to submit their memorandum.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar hails the principled struggle of engine drivers led by the AILRSA in defence of their rights.