Motormen’s Strike Ends-Suburban Train Commuters Heave a Sigh of Relief

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Report and Pictures by Eugene Moodubelle
Bellevision Media network

Mumbai, 05 May 2010: After nearly two days of commuting woes and uncertainty of resuming the suburban train services, Mumbaikars finally heaved a sigh of relief as announcement was made in the media that the motormen have agreed to withdraw their hunger strikes and would resume their duties immediately. As a result train services resumed from the evening of Tuesday, 4th May 2010. However, it was of little use for all those office goers and others who had returned home in the morning as there were no train services.

On the morning of Wednesday, 5th May 2010, the commuters were seen rushing to the suburban railway stations as usual to catch their particular trains to the place of their work. The trains moved in and out of these stations in regular frequency. There were usual serpentine queues at the ticket counters and huge crowds jostling with each other to board the trains. Once again the trains and life of the Mumbaikars seemed to be on track when there was uncertainty when this all would end.

Hectic activities on the part of the State Government, Railway Board and even the Mumbai High Court came to the rescue of the beleaguered commercial capital of the country that was held to ransom by the motormen in support of their demands. Ultimately it was the ‘carrot and stick policy’ that led to the end of the motormen’s strike. As a ‘carrot’, the Railway Board assured the striking motormen that a ‘fast track’ committee would look into their grievances and demands and would submit the report by 15th June 2010. 

On the other hand the government used the ‘stick’ of threatening the motormen that if they insisted on continuing their strike and do not resume their duties, the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) would be used that would result in their arrest and disciplinary action even to the extent of dismissal from service. On the other hand the Mumbai High Court directed the striking motormen of both Central and Western railways that they should resume duties at once. However, before the order was issued, the HC was informed that the motormen had already withdrawn their strike.

Motormen’s strike in Mumbai had its echo in the Parliament as the MPs of different political parties expressed their views on the strike and created chaos in the Lok Sabha. The absence of the Railway Minister, Mamta Bannerjee created further commotion in the House as the opposition members demanded that she should have been present in the House when such an important issue was being discussed. Incidentally, Mamta Bannerjee was in Kolkata to finalise candidates for civic election. However, her supporters claim that she was monitoring the situation in Mumbai from Kolkata and had advised the Railway Board to take necessary steps and action against the striking motormen.

As the motormen’s strike was taking a political colour, Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray and Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) Chief, Raj Thackeray were keen to fish in the troubled waters and indirectly offered their mediation to end the strike and earn the goodwill of the Mumbaikars. However, it was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan who chaired a meeting decided to take the matters in his own hand and asked the Home Minister, R.R.Patil of NCP party to take the lead in resolving the strike. R.R. Patil held deliberations with the leaders of the striking motormen and after few hours of discussion, Patil promised the leaders that the cases registered against nearly 500 motormen would be withdrawn. The railways would not take any disciplinary action against the striking motormen and would also consider their demands.

These assurances along with the threat of using ESMA if the motormen did not relent did the trick and the motormen finally agreed to resume duties.

The entire drama of the hunger strike by the motormen, the disruption of the suburban train services, inconvenience to lakhs of Mumbikars and economic loss in crores of rupees and embarrassment to all the parties concerned could have been avoided if better senses prevailed  on the part of the motormen, the government and the Railway Board. Such issues are required to be addressed in a sensitive manner as the suburban train service is the life line of the Mumbai city the commercial capital of the country.


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Comments on this Article
It is the negative approach of Railwy management towards even the most genuine demands of employees that created this situation. Striking employees were trying to be heard for a long time with all availabel ways. But the administration admantly refused to lend an ear. Even the British rspected Gandhiji s non vilont methods of protests, but our modern day government establishment simply ignore them forcing people to turn to more radical actions.
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