During lunch time at Yamuna Bank Metro station, a small group of train operators and station staff, in their yellow-grey uniforms interrupted by black arm bands, staged a sit-in while oblivious commuters walked past without even a glance. “We have been staging sit-ins at Metro stations across the NCR since May 1. The DMRC had promised in writing in June, 2015, that it will increase our pay grades but it has not been implemented yet,” said Anil Mahato, the Staff Council secretary representing around 3,000 permanent non-executive (operations) staff, including train operators, lines staff, station staff and junior engineers.
The staff have been protesting since April 17. But they intensified their demands from this month, staging sit-ins in the hour-long breaks between trips, some staying back after shifts to protest every day in metro stations in Dwarka, Mundka, Jahangirpuri, Shahdara, and Huda City Centre.
The DMRC issued show cause notices to 15 staff, including Mahato, this month and a cancellation of their annual increment over the protests. A DMRC spokesperson refused to comment stating, “This is an internal matter of the HR department.” In 2015, DMRC spokesman Anuj Dayal had told The Indian Express, “These are issues within the Delhi Metro family, which we will try to solve internally.”
The protests of 2015 had forced the DMRC to size down service hours for overworked train operators from eight hours to five-and-a-half hours. However, several other demands were ignored. A staffer, on conditions of anonymity, said, “There are four salary grades between Rs 13,500 and Rs 18,500 with a three per cent yearly increment. I have been working for over 10 years now and my salary only touches around Rs 40,000.”
The staff council has been demanding that the lowest grade be brought up to Rs 14,000 and the highest grade brought up to Rs 20,600. “If the grades are increased, salaries will go up automatically,” Mahato said. The staff have also been demanding that the Delhi domicile clause mandatory to claim medical reimbursements for parents be done away with, because parents of around 90 per cent of the staffers do not live in Delhi.
A train operator said, “My ailing parents live in a village in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar district. The DMRC will provide medical reimbursement only if I can produce an income certificate from Delhi. They have made it impossible for us to claim the reimbursement.”
The staff have also been demanding food, pick and drop services for operational staff who spend the nights at Metro stations counting money and waiting for the last train to leave. Currently only train operators are given pick and drop facilities.
The staff have been demanding an increase in night duty allowance, currently at Rs 225 a night, which has remained unchanged for the last seven years. The DMRC has not made available the action taken report in an exam paper leak of the departmental competitive exam for choosing executive staff held in 2016, staff council members alleged.
Meanwhile, the Metro rolled out the new passenger fare structure Wednesday starting at Rs 10, going up to Rs 50. Tariff would rise further from October 1, when the maximum will be Rs 60.