A flash strike by nearly 200 motormen of the Western Railway (WR) on Friday inconvenienced more than three million suburban railway commuters during peak evening hours. With the trains getting stuck 50 train services were cancelled while the remaining trains took at least 30 minutes each to leave the station after drivers of outstation trains and car sheds were roped in chaos spilled on the roads that saw an extra rush of people trying to take buses,taxis and auto-rickshaws home. At Churchgate station,angry commuters attacked the motormen office,damaged the station property.
The third strike of the motormen in just over two years,apparently triggered by presence of MoS for railways KH Muniyappa and top Railway Board officials visiting the Vidarbha Express accident site,was to press for the transfer of a senior official of the Mumbai division,weekly offs and assistant motormen in local trains. Giving the post of instructors on seniority and not merit was among the other demands. While commuters called for putting an end to such strikes,motormen justified their action.
This is the limit. To what extent will motormen continue their blackmailing? This has to stop, said a commuter,Bharti Kanak.
General secretary of the WR Motormens Association PN Gupta said,Motormen currently work 365 days. We don’t get a single day off.
The strike was called off at about 7.30 pm after members of the association met with the Divisional Railway Manager and the Additional Divisional Railway Manager,who assured them their demands will be looked into. To protect themselves from the wrath of passengers,the motormen went to the meeting in a van with Railway Protection Force personnel giving them security.
“Today was a good opportunity for motormen as MoS for Railways KH Muniyappa,Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal,and other senior officials of the Railway Board were in the city to visit the accident site at Kasars Ghat,where the Vidarbha Express collided with derailed bogies of a local train,” an official said on the condition of anonymity.
WR officials said arrangements were made to get drivers of outstation trains and car sheds to run the suburban railway network during the strike. The WR cancelled 50 services and said services were normalized post 7.25 pm.
About 70 motormen recruited to the Territorial Army (TA) last year also participated in the strike ignoring TA rules. “The motormen wrote to the administration saying they are now not part of the TA,” a senior WR official said.
Road traffic in the city was badly hit,with traffic snarls on the Western Express Highway and several other parts including the eastern suburbs. Traffic police sources said all traffic personnel,including office staff of the Joint Commissioner (Traffic) and Additional Commissioner (Traffic) offices had to be deployed to manage the situation. Help of the local police was taken.
Traffic on Western Express Highway came to a standstill. A major traffic snarl was seen from Dahisar Check Naka and extending to the sea link, said Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Brijesh Singh.
The BEST deployed 105 extra buses from Churchgate,Dadar,Bandra,Andheri and Borivali up to 6 pm. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation also ran 25 extra buses between Borivali and Virar,a WR spokesperson said.
Taxis carrying more than the permitted number of passengers were not fined on Friday,as police took a lenient view considering the commuter overflow. Some taxi drivers made the most of it by overcharging commuters.
Traffic was cleared by 10 pm on Friday night.