As reported in the March 1-15 issue of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar, the Central Labour Ministry, New Delhi had appointed a one man National Tribunal, under Justice G.S Saraf, to look into the grievances of the Engine Drivers of Indian Railways. The Central Government was forced to do this because of the continuing agitations of the Engine drivers, including the two day protest on May 3rd and 4th 2010 in Mumbai, which brought the train services in Mumbai to a complete standstill for two days. It was the threat of further such actions on an all India scale which resulted in the constituting of this Tribunal.
The Tribunal had its first hearing in Mumbai on March 26th, 2012. The Engine Drivers of Indian Railways, under the leadership of their Union, All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA), gave their presentation to the Tribunal on the grievances of the Engine Drivers. When the Judge asked the response from the Railway Ministry, he was given a fax letter from the Railway Ministry asking him not to proceed with the hearing as the Railway Ministry was already looking into the demands of the Engine Drivers! However the Tribunal fixed the next hearing for April 25th, 2012 and the judge announced that if the Railway Ministry did not present their case, then the tribunal would give its verdict on the basis on the representation of the Engine Drivers led by their Union, AILRSA.
At the second hearing of the tribunal on April 26th, once again the Railway Ministry did not turn up. The Tribunal announced that the last chance for the Railway Ministry would be given at the next hearing fixed for May 30th, 2012, failing which the Tribunal would give its decision ex parte (based on the evidence presented by one party)!
The continued absence of the Railway Ministry from the National Tribunal shows its callous attitude towards the grievances of the engine drivers. As Mazdoor Ekta Lehar has consistently pointed out, the grievances of the engine drivers are genuine and it is the duty of the Railway Ministry to resolve these. This is in the interests of justice to the hard working engine drivers as well as in the interests of the safety of the millions of travelling public.