The city is preparing for an unpleasant start to the week — 800-odd motormen of the Central Railway and Western Railway are nearly certain to go on their threatened hunger strike on Monday.
Railway officials have chalked out plans to handle the resultant disruptions. “We are considering running mail express trains along with local trains, and have called engine drivers from Ratlam and other divisions. And we know even this won’t be enough for Mumbai’s passenger load,” said a senior WR official on condition of anonymity.
The outstation trains will be modified to have 10 compartments, with engines at both ends. “Things are no longer in the CR and WR authorities’ hands. We will withdraw only if the railway ministry requests us and promises to solve our issues immediately,” said a motorman from the Joint Action Forum (JAF), which is representing the agitating motormen.
The motormen have been demanding a revision of salary following the Sixth Pay Commission, assistants for motormen, and a per-kilometer allowance according to the distance run by motormen in a day.
The mechanics of a hunger strike
The nearly 800 motormen expected to strike also include those of outstation trains. They have said if a motorman feels sick or believes he will not be able to take the train any further, he will halt the train at the nearest station and go to the stationmaster’s cabin.
Even a small number of motormen stopping their trains and sitting it out in a stationmaster’s cabin can cause train schedules to collapse across the city.
Law and order
If the strike happens, in addition to the expected disruptions in local train services, railway officials also foresee law and order issues — for which they have asked the state government to get help from the city police.
Railway officials and the JAF have both said the other will be responsible for any resultant law and order problems. The proposed strike will also coincide with a special court’s expected final ruling in the Kasab trial on Monday. Railway sources said nearly 10,000 policemen — one-fourth of the city’s total police force — will be deployed across all CR and WR stations.
The railways have asked BEST and Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) to make alternate transport arrangements to handle the emergency. BEST, which runs 4,500 buses on Mumbai’s roads, has been asked to divert 1,000 on the main north-south line.
Traffic police will create parking space for these buses outside railway stations. MSRTC will provide 442 buses across Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Vashi, Karjat, Vasai and Virar. “I have ordered more buses on the Mumbai-Pune route if long-range trains also come to a halt,” said Deepak Kapoor, managing director, MSRTC.