MEL: Please give us your views on the recently concluded elections.
DSK: These are only the second elections being conducted in the Indian Railways.
The first one was held six years back and a case challenging the way that election was conducted by the authorities is still going on in the Delhi High Court! All India Railway Employees Confederation (AIREC) had gone to court since the Railway authorities violated the Supreme Court norms on conduct of elections in public sector undertakings.
The norms which were violated were a) The Labour Ministry shall conduct the elections. However in the Railways it was the Railway authorities themselves who conducted the elections. b) Accounts of Unions should be published. Facilities given to existing recognized Unions would be withdrawn before the elections, in order to provide a level playing field for all participating Unions. However these have not been implemented.
Furthermore, those participating in the elections have to give a written undertaking/affidavit that they will not take part in any agitation against the authorities. This is depriving the workers of their fundamental rights. We challenged all this.
As per the norms laid down by the authorities, those Unions who get the majority vote in more than 9 zones (out of total 17) will be recognized as the All India Representative Union. However those Unions which get a majority at the Zonal level will be the recognized Union at that level. AIREC is trying to challenge the monopoly of AIRF and NFIR. AIREC consists of representative Unions for 18 different categories in the Indian Railways: AILRSA (Engine Drivers), AIGC (Guards), AISMA (Station Masters), AIC&WA (Carriage and Wagon staff), AIS&T (Signaling and Telecommunications), AITCA (Ticket Checkers) etc. However as per the rules of the elections only those unions can contest who represent all the categories. This prevents individual category wise unions from contesting the elections. Hence we are trying to revive AIREC as a representative union for all categories.
In 2007, on the last day for filing nominations the railways issued a circular allowing AIREC to contest. This was deliberately done as they knew that with such a short notice, it was impossible on an all India level to contest the elections. We must understand that according to the Railways own admission; Rs 200 crores is spent on facilities given to the existing recognized federations. In the latest elections, AIRF has won recognition in a majority of zones. I request them to genuinely fight for the interests of the employees.
MEL: A lot of reports are coming out about corruption in the Railways.
DSK: The previous Railway Minister had been at his post for only three months. How did he fix a price of Rs 10 crores for a posting in the Railway Board? This only means the corruption is deeply rooted in the Railways. The Railway authorities have a target of further reducing the manpower of Indian Railways from 13 lakhs to 11 lakhs. If an enquiry is conducted into all the corrupt dealings that are taking place and the guilty punished (the officers are the ones mainly involved) then the target would be automatically achieved! However their aim is to reduce the employees in C and D categories, the workmen.
Ever since Manmohan Singh introduced liberalization, privatization and globalization in 1991, the Indian economy is being looted by the Indian capitalist class.
MEL: What do you see as the role of the working class in this scenario?
DSK: We want that the working class should take over the running of this country because we are the most important element in the economy. Today if we put forward our legitimate demands, we are branded as obstacles to “growth”. To tell a lie is difficult, as to cover one lie, you will have to tell a hundred more lies. But today it is a crime to tell the truth. Social activists are being harassed. Those who speak out are being victimized. We should fight for fundamental changes in society. We should fight for accountability. The judicial system has to be entirely reviewed to ensure that guilty are punished speedily. Today who is most happy with the judicial system and the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land? It is the criminals! They know that they will never get punished under this system. I have been fighting a case for an engine driver since 1986. The judgment came in his favor, after 25 years in 2011!
We must rouse the working class to move in this direction of a fundamental change in the Indian society. We must develop the independent program of the working class.
MEL: We thank you for your interview and fully agree that the working class must be aroused to fulfill its historic role.