On 29th October 2020, a historic meeting in the form of a webinar was held, in which national leaders of 17 major unions and category-wise associations of the Indian Railways came together from all over the country and decided to reconstitute the National Coordination Committee of Railwaymen’s Struggle (NCCRS). This was done to unitedly oppose the privatisation of the Indian Railways which is being pushed on fast track by the present BJP led Government. It may be remembered that it was the NCCRS which led the historic railway strike in 1974.
The meeting was called by Com Shiv Gopal Mishra, General Secretary, All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF). It was attended and addressed by Com Dr. M. Raghuvaiah, General Secretary of National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR), Com Ashok Shukla, General Secretary of Bharatiya Rail Mazdoor Sangh (BRMS), Com M. N. Prasad, Secretary General, All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA), Com S. P. Singh, General Secretary, All India Guards Council (AIGC), Com Sunil Kumar, Secretary General, All India Station Masters Association(AISMA), Com D. Vara Prasad , Secretary General, All India Train Controllers Association(AITCA), Com Dr. Hemant Soni, General Secretary, Indian Railway Ticket Checking Staff Organisation (IRTCSO), Com Aloke Chandra Prakash, General Secretary, Indian Railway Signal and Telecommunications Maintainers Union (IRSTMU), Comrade Anuj Shukla, General Secretary, All India Track Maintainers Union(AIRTU), Com A. K. Shrivastav, Zonal Secretary, Western Railway, All India Railway Employees Confederation(AIREC), Com A. Mathew, Secretary, Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC), Com Thirumurugan, General Secretary of Indian Railway Loco Running Men’s Organisation (IRLRO), Com Sanjay Pandhe, President of Indian Railways Loco Running Organisation (IRLRO), Com Pramod Dange, General Secretary of Railway Karmachari Track Maintainer’s Association ( RKTA), Com Mathew Syriac, General Secretary , Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU) and Com Harchandan Singh, General Secretary of Indian Railway Technical Supervisors Association (IRTSA). Com Ashok Kumar, General Secretary, All India SC & ST Railway Employees Association (AISCTEA), could not attend but declared his full support to the initiative taken.
Com Shiv Gopal Mishra, General Secretary, AIRF in his opening address said that all previous Governments, whether NDA – 1, UPA-1, UPA-2 and now NDA-2 have been pushing privatisation. Now they are going full speed by announcing that 150 trains on 109 routes would be handed over to private operators and production units would be corporatized. When they announced corporatisation in 2019, the workers and their families had come on the roads in MCF-Rae Bareilly, DLW-Varanasi, CLW-Chittaranjan, ICF- Chennai, RCF- Kapurthala and other places. The railways is meant for the people of India but they want to hand it over to the Indian and foreign monopolies. There is a need to form the NCCRS just like in 1974, to unite all railway workers.
All the speakers from the different federations and associations supported his call for all to come together under the banner of NCCRS. They made many points that are important for carrying out the struggle successfully:
All railway employees and their families should come together keeping aside their ideologies and flags with a single agenda to save the railways and save the nation. We must come together keeping aside all feelings of superiority or inferiority, big or small and must march ahead to oppose privatisation and corporatisation of production units.
If we are to defeat the plans of the big capitalists, both Indian and foreign, we need to come together. If the roof falls, it will fall on everyone under it, irrespective of whether their colour is red, tricolour, saffron, etc. We should go to the trade unions, people, and students, and mobilise them to our side and also bring all the Public Sector Unions together to oppose privatisation. We should challenge the Government and if they do not agree then we should be prepared for struggle with even more preparation and unity than in 1974.
This is not a one day struggle and so we should be prepared for a long struggle right from grass roots level. All trade unions should carry out awareness programs at all levels, branch, division and zone to unite the workers against privatisation. Big capitalists control the government. They have been handing out different functions of the railways on contract, and corporatizing different parts in order to break our unity. We have so far been unable to oppose these policies. But now it is good that we are all coming together to oppose. We should develop a time bound program since by June 2021, the Government plans to allow private operators to start running their trains. We have 9 months in which to prepare ourselves so that we can stop this.
The opposition to corporatisation of the railway production units should be as strong as opposition to privatisation as it is only one step away from handing over the unit to a private monopoly.
In his concluding address Com Shiv Gopal Mishra emphasized the need to energise this platform to take up the challenge of the Government and oppose privatisation and corporatisation. Everybody may have different ideologies, but to save the railways, all are one. He said today there is nearly a 100% attendance of all railway unions and if anybody has been left out they will also be invited. He also declared that we will call our front NCCRS, since it is a popular name and associated with the 1974 struggle. The name will help us to recollect all those who died during that struggle as well as all those who sacrificed and lost their jobs.
Lok Raj Sangathan congratulates all the unions and associations of the railway workers for taking this crucial step towards building political unity among the railway workers.