Brothers and Sisters,
The All India Loco Running Staff Association representing more than 1 Lakh engine drivers of the Indian Railways is holding its National Convention in Mumbai on the 31st of August 2010. Mumbai was chosen since it was in this city that the heroic motormen struck work on May 3rd and 4th 2010 to protest their terrible working conditions. This two day strike completely paralysed the city and showed to the entire country the might of the united motormen of Mumbai.
The plight of the engine drivers of the Indian Railways is very similar to that of the motormen. They have to work at a stretch for more than 16 to 17 hours without a break. Such long duty hours not only affect the health of the drivers but also affect the safety of the travelling public. This also means that the engine drivers have to stay away from their families for long periods The engine drivers are demanding that this be curtailed to a maximum of 10 hours.
In addition their duty hours are not regular and are very uncertain.
They do not get sufficient rest in between duty periods. They are demanding rest of one day per week as against the existing practice of a periodic rest of 30 hours each 4 times a month. If an engine driver finishes duty at 10 AM today and joins for duty at 4 pm tomorrow, then it is said that he has taken rest for 30 hours and this is treated as equal to a weekly holiday!
Such long duty hours with irregular timings and in the absence of sufficient rest in between has shattered the health and family conditions of a large section of the engine drivers. A large majority of them have been rendered medically unfit before the attainment of their age of retirement and another large section of them gets voluntarily retired and leave the service, unable to withstand the inhuman working conditions.
The minimum qualification for recruitment as an engine driver is matriculation with ITI and preferably Diploma in Engineering. After selection they have to undergo a 9 months stringent training. In addition they have to maintain a standard of “Aye One” through out the service as Running staff.
In spite of this they are put on the low grade pay scale of Rs 1900/ pm whereas the lowest grade pay scale of the Central Government is Rs 1800/ pm. The engine drivers are demanding an upward revision of their entry level pay scale.
Besides these demands engine drivers are asking for increase in allowances as per Government’s own 6th Pay commission recommendations.
Brothers and Sisters,
The Engine Drivers of the Indian Railways have the duty of safely transporting the most precious asset in India, the Indian working people to and from all parts of India. In addition they have to transport goods, raw materials and finished goods under the most arduous conditions. Their demands are just and in spite of this successive governments at the Centre have not given them justice. Whether it is Congress, BJP or Third Front Governments, all have instituted various committees but none have implemented the just demands of the engine drivers.
The engine drivers of the Indian Railways have a long and glorious history of militant struggle in defence of their rights. They were the spearhead of the historic All India Railway Strike of 1974 which lasted for 20 days and in which 1.7 crore railway workers took part.
The engine drivers of India are deliberating at this National Convention on the way forward. Lok Raj Sangathan and Kamgar Ekta Chalwal fully support the just demands of the hardworking and toiling engine drivers of the Indian Railways. and will do all they can to rally other sections of the fighting workers in support of their just demands.
Brothers & sisters,
Today all sections of the working people are rising up in arms against the increasing attacks on their livelihood and living conditions. They are faced on the one hand with skyrocketing prices and on the other hand with long hours of duty, marginal or no rise in pay, and increasing contractualisation of work.
The big capitalist corporations do not implement even the meager protection that is provided under the existing laws of the land and are demanding from the Central as well as State Governments, which are under their control for further removing any restriction on their right to unbridled exploitation of the land and labour of the Indian people. The big Indian Monopolies have visions of becoming Global Giants riding on the backs of a billion Indians.
However the Indian working class has to challenge this vision, which is benefiting only a few and put forth its own vision for the Indian society, which would be to benefit all the toiling people. Lok Raj Sangathan calls on the engine drivers of India, and their organisation, the All India Loco Running Staff Association, to actively take part in elaboration of this vision for a new India.
All for One and One for All!
Lok Raj Sangathan
August 31, 2010
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