On March 30th 2014, under a bright banner reading “An Attack on one is an attack on all”, residents of the Byculla Railway Quarters, gathered to commemorate International Womens Day. The majority were women. The meeting was called by Kamgar Ekta Committee. Byculla Railway Quarters, houses motormen and engine drivers, guards, nurses, station masters, engineering staff etc of Group “C” category.
Welcoming the gathering, Com Kusum explained the history of International Womens Day, the struggles women had waged in the past and the struggles of women today for justice, equality and a society free of exploitation. She said that women were the target of outdated customs, communal and caste violence as well as in areas under army occupation. Today, every 20 minutes a woman is raped and the perpetrators go scot free. The only way forward is to build committees of women and working people in the residential areas and work places.
Com Mathew explained that Kamgar Ekta Committee was working to build the unity of the working class. The working class could not emancipate itself unless it takes up the cause of the emancipation of women too. Hence the struggles of the workers were intimately linked with the struggles of the women. He further read from MEL March 1-15 issue on the Rail Budget. As the article explained, the Govt was committed to privatization of many of the non “Core” sections of the railways, such as wagon stock manufacturing, railway stations, track and signal maintenance, goods carriage etc. The govt was entering into Public Private partnerships to achieve this aim. This would result in increasing use of contract labour, reduction of permanent employees as well as increase in their workload, increase in passenger fares as well as lopsided “development” whose only purpose would be to increase the profits of the capitalists, both Indian and foreign who would be now allowed to enter the Indian Railways. He proposed that a bigger meeting could be organized wherein a two to three hour presentation could be made to all the Railway Quarter residents on the “Indian Railways- Past, Present and Future”
Next the residents talked of the numerous problems faced by them. For example the problems of poor hygiene in the colony, anti social elements hanging around which has a bad influence on their children, poor maintenance of the colony.
It was agreed by everyone that next year International Women’s Day would be celebrated in a bigger way. It was also agreed that those present would constitute themselves into the Byculla Railway Quarters Residents Committee as representative of all the buildings were present. This committee would be open to all residents irrespective of Trade Union Affiliation, Party Affiliation, religion, language or caste. It would fight against wrongdoing within the colony and take up the issues relating to the residents. The committee would work democratically, and all decisions would be based on majority opinion. The committees would be of a new type where it is not one leader who decides and all have to follow, whereas in this committee everybody’s opinion will be taken into account and decisions arrived by broad consensus. Also it was emphasized that women taking active part in the committees would give great strength to it as they had a unifying role and had the capacity to mobilize the whole family also. Also their sense of justice and sentiments against evil tendencies was strong in them.
It was decided that the committee would meet once every month. The meeting ended on a highly optimistic note, that the residents, especially the women had achieved what was in their heart, that is overcoming the divisions that exist and had been created by the establishment, to build their unity.