New Delhi: Indian Railways is in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. On Wednesday, Railway employees under the banner of North Central Railway Men's Union (NCRMU) protested in front of Shatabdi Express at Tundla railway station against the IRCTC's Tejas Express, the country's first "private" train, flagged off by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow.
On the same day, over 300 differently-abled persons blocked roads in central Delhi, who had applied for Group D jobs, demanding a meeting with Railway authorities as they had heard nothing from them so far.
In Tundla, NCRMU said it is observing the day as 'virodh diwas' (protest day) across the network against the first "private" train, Tejas, and the railway board's decision to privatise another 150 trains.
Terming the launch of the Tejas Express on October 4 as a "black day", members of the railway unions, carrying banners and shouting slogans, gathered in front of the divisional railway manager's office.
Balram, branch secretary of NCRMU, told Newsclick, "Our protest was against the Narendra Modi government's privatisation policy and posts in Railway being privatized, including production units. Apart from Tejas, under the direction of government's NITI Aayog, Indian Railways has established a secretary-level committee to hand over 50 railway stations and 150 trains to private companies. So, our key concern is the security of the passengers and trains under private hands.”
On Railway employee demands, Balram said: "We have also started a campaign for Seventh Pay Commission implementation and end to the new pension scheme,” adding that “more than 4.5 lakh vacancies are vacant in the Railway across the country. When the government is increasing trains regularly, why is it not increasing the employee strength accordingly?”
Opposing privatization, another union secretary, DK Dixit, told Newsclick, "The present challenge is to prevent Railways from going into private hands, revocation of the old pension scheme and removal of the new pension scheme to protect the interests of employees.” He added that they would also focus on demanding that vacancies be filled and safety for train passengers improved.
The new IRCTC Tejas Express train, which runs between Lucknow and New Delhi, cuts the time travelled between the two cities to six hours 15 minutes from the six hours 40 minutes taken by the Swarna Shatabdi, currently the fastest train on the route.
Confirming the government’s push for privatisation of Railways, officials said if this experiment of handing over certain operations to IRCTC is successful, the Railways would make way for private operators to run trains in India.
Protest by Differently-Abled Jams Central Delhi
In the capital, over 300 hundred differently-abled people, who had applied for group D jobs with the Railways, gathered at Mandi House and staged a protest against the government. They demanded that Railway officials should visit them. "Unless we get the jobs that we deserve, we will continue to protest. We have been sitting on dharna since morning and we will not leave the place unless we get an assurance from the railways," one of the protestors was quoted as saying by PTI.
The protest continued on Thursday, as the agitators said they would end their protest only after getting appointment. They said a hearing was to be held on their jobs on Wednesday but the officials did not turn up for it.