New Delhi: As news of a possible strike by thousands of station masters surfaced in the media, the Centre held talks with their union leaders on Monday in a bid to avert the disruption of train services.
The All India Station Masters’ Association (AISMA) has given a call to observe a one-day strike on May 31 to press for its demands, including filling vacancies in the Railways. According to the association, out of the sanctioned strength of 34,000-plus station masters across all the railway zones, around 6,800 are vacant.
Station masters play an important role in the operation of trains and yet several posts have been vacant for years, Dhananjay Chandrawat, national president, AISMA, told Newsclick over the phone on Tuesday. “We’ve been demanding filling up these posts through peaceful means since 2020 but we were not heard. Now, we have been forced to stage a one-day strike.”
According to Chandrawat, Railways officials convened a meeting with the union leader to discuss the matter. “We mentioned our demands and they assured us to convene another meeting in the coming days,” he said.
The Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) conducts the written exam for the posts of station masters, which are in the non-technical popular categories (NTPC). Last time, more than 1.26 crore candidates had reportedly applied for 35,281 vacancies, including those for station masters, typists and account clerks, among others, which were released under RRB-NTPC in 2019. The exams were held in seven phases between December 28, 2020, and July 31, 2021. The starting salary for these posts ranges between Rs 19,900 and Rs 35,400 depending on the levels 2 to 6.
When the results were announced on January 15, protests broke out in several north Indian states, where thousands of candidates opposed the RRB’s decision to introduce a second stage of screening for those who had cleared the exam. The controversy eventually delayed the recruitment further with the RRB concluding the second stage of the exam earlier this month. Results haven’t been announced so far.
Chandrawat said that the association members had worn black badges in the past to protest the delay. AISMA has also demanded the restoration of night duty allowance, which was cancelled on September 29, 2020, to all employees without a ceiling and reorganisation of cadre. The union is also against the privatisation and corporatisation of the Railways.