Mumbai railway: 2 arrested, 11 cops injured; job aspirants protest; updates

An agitation by job-seekers over issues pertaining to Railways recruitment culminated in a rail-blockade, police caning, and retaliatory stone-throwing leading to a virtual paralysis of the Central Railway suburban train services in Mumbai on Tuesday. Photo: Kamlesh Pednekar 
A few hundred railway job-seekers caught Central Railway (CR) by surprise, resulting in a virtual paralysis of Mumbai's lifeline, the suburban train service, for over three hours here on Tuesday morning. The agitation also turned violent as some protesters pelted stones, leading to a police baton charge to disperse them.

The morning peak hour suburban and long-distance train services were severely disrupted as hundreds of protesters squatted on the railway tracks between Matunga and Dadar on the CR to press for their demands pertaining to railway apprentices' recruitment.

Rattled by the sudden crisis, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal held emergency meetings and announced that 20 percent posts in railway establishments are already reserved for those who have cleared the All India Railway Act Apprentice Exams.

"This has been done as per the various judgements by the Supreme Court from time to time. Applicants who completed the apprenticeship course have also been given an age relaxation equal to the period of apprenticeship," he announced in New Delhi.

Goyal added the Indian Railways was in the midst of a massive recruitment exercise and had "come out with a policy to ensure a fair, transparent and competitive recruitment process that follows the law and the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court".

In Mumbai, a CR spokesperson said that there was no provision as per the Apprentice Act of giving job to apprentices who are only trained for a specific period to hone their skills and gain experience.

"However, the Ministry of Railways has taken a decision and reserved 20 per cent of the seats filled through direct recruitment. The notification is already issued with the last date of submitting application on March 31. Apprentices can apply against this notification and Special Examination will shortly be held for apprentices who have done training in Railway Workshops under the Apprentices Act," the spokesperson said.

After the intervention of the top CR offiials and a written assurance, the protesters withdrew the agitation around 10.45 am and the highly-vulnerable system started limping back to normal.

The agitation's cascading effect led to massive overcrowding on the Western Railway (WR), as trains ran packed, traffic jams on roads linking Mumbai with the mainland and the Eastern Express and Western Express Highways slicing through the country's commercial capital.

More than 4.5 million commuters were badly hit for the second consecutive day following a strike called on Monday by drivers of cab aggregators and app-based taxis.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the assembly that as the agitators became violent and pelted stones, police resorted to a "mild" baton-charge to control them.

At least five of the protestors and 11 police personnel including some women officers, were injured in the fracas as helpless Mumbaikars watched the unfolding drama.

The protests were carried out by activists of the All India Act Apprentice Association (AIAAA) who demanded scrapping of the 20 per cent quota for direct recruitment and jobs for local candidates in all states who have cleared the AIRAA exams.

Shiv Sena MP from Mumbai Rahul Shewale met top CR officials to resolve the situation and later said that the railways would hire over 12,400 candidates who have cleared the AIRAA exams.

The protests disrupted the entire suburban and long distance railway train schedules in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Raigad, and Pune with commuters stranded for hours as the BEST chipped in with extra buses at various points to clear the rush.

The opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party demanded a discussion on the issue in the legislature on a priority basis and the circumstances leading to the baton charge on the protesters, while Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray held a meeting with the agitation leaders.

The protests hit college students who started their University of Mumbai's BA, B.Com and B.Sc. examinations on Tuesday, but the authorities permitted an extra hour to enable the candidates reach their exam centres.

The agitation threw the schedules of Mumbai's famous Dabbawalas, whose army of tiffin-carriers were stranded at various CR stations right from Kalyan in Thane to Dadar in Mumbai, though deliveries continued normally on the WR, said Mumbai Dabbawalas Association spokesperson Subhash Talekar.

Meanwhile, Rail Yatri Parishad chief Subhash Gupta attacked the railways for "complete intelligence failure" to anticipate the agitation that left CR crippled for over three hours.

According to some reports, the agitation was being planned since December and over 25,000 aspirants were contacted all over India on social media networks.

Travelling by train to and in Mumbai? Here are the top 10 developments surrounding the 'rail roko' protest by agitating railway job aspirants:

1) No rules changed for railway job aspirants, says Fadnavis

Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday claimed that no rules have been changed for railway job aspirants, adding that 20 per cent seats are reserved for apprentices but they are demanding more.

Fadnavis's statement comes after the agitated railway job aspirants staged a rail blockade in Mumbai demanding job in railway sector. However, the strike has been called off now.

"We have been in continuous touch with officials. No rules have changed for job aspirants, 20 percent seats are reserved for apprentices but they are demanding more," Fadnavis told ANI.

"Lathi-charge was done after agitators started pelting stones over the issue. Also no one was injured in this incident," Fadnavis added.

2) Mumbai rail roko agitation called off: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said that the agitation by students seeking permanent jobs in the Railways was called off at 10.35 am. Further, the minister appealed that the agitators apply for the ongoing Railways recruitment drive, which will end on March 31.  

With scores of agitating students bringing the rail service in the metropolis to a halt early this morning, the minister said all applicants should get a "fair and equal opportunity" to serve the country.

One of the major demands of the agitating job aspirants, mostly those who have passed the Railway Act Apprentice exam, is scrapping the 20 per cent upper limit for hiring.

Addressing a press conference, Goyal said that the 20 per cent posts were reserved in keeping with the "various judgments pronounced by the Supreme Court from time to time and as per section 22(1) of the Apprentices Act". These 20 per cent posts are reserved for 'course completed act apprentices' who were already engaged in railway establishment under the Apprenticeship Act.

Indian Railways is currently in the middle of a massive recruitment drive to fill over 90,000 Group C and Group D posts and the minister urged them to apply for these jobs, the last date of which is March 31.

3) 'Railways recruitment is competitive and transparent': Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said the recruitment policy of the Indian Railways was "competitive and transparent" in line with Supreme Court guidelines. Goyal said that the government had already reserved 20 per cent posts for those who have completed the apprentice exams and were engaged in railway establishments. 

"This has been done as per ... the various judgments by the Supreme Court from time to time. Applicants who completed the apprenticeship course have also been given an age relaxation equal to the period of apprenticeship," the minister said.

He said Indian Railways was currently in the middle of a massive recruitment exercise and had "come out with a policy to ensure a fair, transparent and competitive recruitment process that follows the law and the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court".

Recruitment in Railways is underway at a large scale. On directives of Supreme Court, Indian Railways has made a recruitment policy that is unbiased & transparent: Piyush Goyal on Railway job aspirants' agitation in Mumbai pic.twitter.com/mjWBIlwGcL

— ANI (@ANI) March 20, 2018

4) CM Fadnavis in touch with officials: Speaking in the State Assembly on the railway job aspirants' agitation, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that he was in "continuous touch with officials". Fadnavis added that no rules had changed.

"Twenty per cent seats are reserved for apprentices but they are demanding more. Lathi-charge was done after agitators started pelting stones, no one was injured." he said, according to news agencies.

Was in continuous touch with officials. No rules have changed, 20% seats are reserved for apprentices but they are demanding more. Lathi-charge was done after agitators started pelting stones,no one was injured: Maharashtra CM in State Assembly on railway job aspirants' agitation pic.twitter.com/iIgY6SdKi7

— ANI (@ANI) March 20, 2018

5) Railway services resume: The Railways traffic between Dadar and Matunga in Mumbai resumed after hours of agitation, according to news agencies. The agitating railway job aspirants were still present at the spot where they have been protesting.

#WATCH: Railway traffic resumes between Dadar & Matunga, agitating railway job aspirants still present at the spot where they have been protesting, between Matunga & Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. #Mumbai pic.twitter.com/J72KIhc38b

— ANI (@ANI) March 20, 2018

6) Rail blockade disrupts normal life: The rail-blockade, police caning, and retaliatory stone-throwing caused a virtual paralysis of the Central Railway suburban train services. For nearly three hours, services were severely disrupted as protestors squatted and laid down on the railway tracks between Matunga and Dadar. 

The 'rail roko' led to a cascading effect even on the Western Railway with all trains running packed to capacity, the roads linking Mumbai with the mainland, and the two highways slicing through the country's commercial capital.  

The protest comes at a time when more than 4.5 million commuters were badly hit for the second consecutive day following a strike called on Monday by drivers of cab aggregators and app-based taxis that disrupted in Mumbaikars' schedules.

7) Police resorts to lathi-charge: Attempting to restore normalcy, the local police resorted to a mild lathi-charge to disperse the protestors. Some protestors retaliated by pelting stones at the police. At least five persons and a couple of police personnel were injured in the exchange even as top police and railway officials rushed to the site to control the situation.

The protests were carried out by activists of the All India Act Apprentice Association (AAAAA). It demanded the scrapping of the 20 per cent quota for direct recruitment and jobs for local candidates in all states who have cleared the All India Railway Act Apprentice Exams. They claimed they had taken up their demands right up to the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who met them but there was no progress in the matter.

8) 'No provision of giving jobs to apprentices': A CR spokesperson said that there was no provision of giving jobs to apprentices as per the Apprentice Act who are only trained for a specific period to hone their skills and gain experience. "However, the Ministry of Railways has taken a decision and reserved 20 per cent of the seats filled through direct recruitment. The notification is already issued with the last date of submitting application on March 31. Apprentices can apply against this notification and Special Examination will shortly be held for apprentices who have done training in Railway Workshops under the Apprentices Act," the spokesperson said. 

A student who was part of the protest told news agencies: "There has been no recruitment since past four years. We are struggling from pillars to post. Over 10 students have committed suicide. We cannot let such things happen." 

9) Four lines between Matunga and CSMT affected: The entire four lines between Matunga and CSMT have been affected, said the Central Railway official. Further, police and Railways officials are conducting talks with them, added the official. 

10) 'Won't budge until Piyush Goyal meets us': Another agitating student told news agencies: "We will not budge from here until and unless Railway Minister Piyush Goyal comes and meets us. Our several prayers made to DRM (Divisional Railway Manager of Mumbai Division) have failed." 

#UPDATE #Mumbai: Railway traffic affected as 'rail-roko' agitation by railway job aspirants, continues, between Matunga & Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. pic.twitter.com/BgqdfOXR1G

— ANI (@ANI) March 20, 2018
 

Students blocked tracks from 7 am today: The agitating students blocked the rail tracks from 7 am in the morning today, forcing the Railways to stop the suburban as well as express train in the affected section between Matunga and CSMT.  

With agency inputs


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