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Railway gangmen’s hopes go off track

More than 150 gangmen in the Pune division of Central Railway had been waiting eagerly for the interim budget,hoping for a reversal of a decision last year to convert them into gangmen from porters and Friday’s budget has left them disappointed.

Written by Ranjani Raghavan | Pune | Published: February 16, 2009 4:22 am

More than 150 gangmen in the Pune division of Central Railway had been waiting eagerly for the interim budget,hoping for a reversal of a decision last year to convert them into gangmen from porters and Friday’s budget has left them disappointed.

Now,a team of gangmen,along with Khed MP Adhalrao Patil,will travel to Delhi this week to meet the Railway Board chairperson and,if possible,the Railway Minister to see if an administrative order can be brought about before the elections.

“We have been petitioning the minister since the last budget. Now,before the elections,we want at least an administrative order passed,” said Datta Dhore,general secretary of the Indian Railway Licensed Porters’ Association.

The gangmen had been lured by the promise of a steady salary and additional perks. As gangmen,they were required to go through intense labour that involved changing rails,cleaning tracks,laying gravel and dealing with equipment weighing up to 35 kilos.

Now,the budget has given them a new argument. “Of the 43 new trains announced,nine are from Maharashtra and there is bound to be an increase in passenger traffic. There is a shortage of porters; what better way to meet this demand but by roping in gangmen who were formerly porters?” says Dhore.

After the last budget,many of these gangmen have opted to stay at home. Santosh Shankar Dhore has been working at his fields for nearly eight months; he is one of the committee members travelling to Delhi this week. “Most of us were allotted postings that required us to travel 150-200 km from homes daily. There was extra expense on food and travel. We had to patrol the tracks for many kilometres in the heat,” he said.

Many are willing to settle for their old porter badges,even if it means going back to daily wages. “When the post of gangman came up,I was eager initially. Later,I found it was not worth it,” said former porter Santosh Dhore.

Central Railway spokesperson YK Singh said,“The job was given only to those who had applied. We know that many are not interested in this post,but only the Railway Board can take a decision.”

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