Suburban Trains Motormen’s Strike Disrupts Life in Mumbai

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Report and Pictures by Eugene Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Mumbai, 04 May 2010:As if the scorching heat of the month of May is not enough to harass the people, the motormen’s strike since Monday, 3rd May 2010 has compounded the problems of the suburban train commuters and the normal life in Mumbai has been completely disrupted. Thousands of office goers in far flung suburbs in both Central and Western Railway residing as far as Karjat and Kasara as well as Virar have been forced to return to their homes from their respective stations as the suburban train service was not available and there is no other feasible mode of transport to and from their place of work in intermediary and terminal stations.

When i visited the Dombivli station in the morning at around 10 am, i found the platforms practically deserted. Many people who had come early in the morning to reach their offices might have gone back to their respective homes. A number of people were just whiling away their time on the footbridge without knowing what should be done in the absence of trains. I did see a train leaving the platform towards Kalyan. I also observed a bunch of friends just sitting on the steps of the stairway and discussing the railway problem.

The motormen had given a notice of their indefinite hunger strike since early morning of Monday, 3rd May 2010. The motormen resorted to a unique method of Gandhian protest by running the trains while on hunger strike with a rider that they would pilot the trains as far as their energy permitted. Hence, the train service from morning  till around 3pm seemed to be somewhat normal. Thereafter the chaos started as train after train came to be cancelled in both Central and Western railways causing hardship to thousands of commuters who were anxious to return home. Though the BEST had pushed hundreds of additional buses into service to blunt the impact of the strike, it caused more chaos in crowded and congested roads.


The motormen have been agitating for an increase of basic pay scales of assistant drivers from Rs.1900 to Rs.2800 and also want a hike for all other senior categories. Other demands include increase in per kilometre mileage rate from Rs. 169 to Rs.287 and also want the arrears cleared of the same since 1st January 2006; an assistant motorman for safety of commuters; and  increase in grade pay from Rs.4200 to Rs.4800. Besides, they have also demanded the filling up of vacancies.

As the tug of war between the motormen and the Railway authorities has been going on, it is the common commuters including the college students appearing for the University examinations who are the worst sufferers. As the motormen’s strike has entered the second day with practically no trains moving, the people are not sure when this strike will end and normalcy would return.

While the Mumbai University has allowed students to write their examinations even if they reach their examination centres late, it is doubtful how those students who depend entirely on suburban train service will be able to make it.  According to a report there is speculation that the government may invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) which could lead to the arrests and other drastic moves so as to keep the train services running. The impact of the strike can be gauged by the fact that on Monday, 3rd May 2010, between 6 and 9pm Western Railway cancelled as many as 70 services and central Railway 166 services.

The Railway Board has been trying to end the deadlock. A committee of the Railway Board is already looking into the demands of the motormen, chiefly related to higher pay and allowances, which are not included in the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission. Some of the motormen claim that some of their demands have remained unresolved since many years. Hence, they have no other option but to resort to this agitation.

Whatever is the justification for the unprecedented agitation of the motormen and the stand taken by the Railway Board, it is the hapless commuters who heavily depend on the suburban train services for their travelling to and from the city of Mumbai are the worried lot. With a large number of people who want to go on vacation with their families may not be able to reach the terminus from where the long distance trains start, students finding it difficult to reach their examination centres and normal office and industry goers being forced to stay back home as against their will, the life in the city of Mumbai has been terribly disturbed since Monday, 3rd May 2010. It is hoped that better senses would prevail both among the striking motormen and the Railway Board and the anxiety of the Mumbaikars about the uncertainty about the suburban railway services would end soon.


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Comments on this Article
Rail, Bilaspur Tue, May-4-2010, 4:51
Drivers are getting much more than other poor hardworking railway employees like gangman, patrolman, signal staff. There is no reason for strike.
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