Motormen’s flash strike derails Western Railway


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MUMBAI: Western Railway (WR) motormen brought the city to a standstill on Thursday evening after they went on a flash strike from 4.30-5.30pm demanding that the railway authorities reinstate a colleague who was to be discharged from his duties. Though the strike lasted for an hour, services limped back to normal only by 7pm.

With no announcements or updates, thousands of commuters-who had been inconvenienced by the BEST bus strike-milled around platforms at Churchgate and WR stations waiting for a train to take them home. WR was forced to cancel 25 local trains between Churchgate and Virar. Nearly 80 WR motormen reported sick in the afternoon: At 4.30 pm, trains at Churchgate station did not pull out of platforms, and other locals simply halted at stations along the western line. Commuters who were asked to disembark said that some south-bound trains returned to Dadar station and "refused to move". "The train which was at Dadar station began moving in the opposite direction to Virar," said one commuter.

WR authorities, on Wednesday, had started the paperwork to discharge Malkit Singh a motorman who had been found guilty for ramming a train into a stoppage point (dead end) at Andheri station in March 2010. Ten passengers were injured when a coach was derailed because of the accident. "On Wednesday, process to issue a removal notice to Singh was initiated and we thought that we should stand for him, so we decided to carry out the flash strike.

Nearly 80 motormen reported sick as they were not in a mental frame of mind to run the trains," said Devendra Yadav, convenor of Western Railway Motormen’s Association (WRMA). WR has around 440 motormen on its rolls. "Even after the strike was officially called off, train services were running late by 10-15 minutes up until 7pm," said a WR source.

At stations like Churchgate and Dadar, the situation threatened to go out of control, as the platforms were packed with commuters. "Even the slightest scare would have caused a stampede at Churchgate station," said Payal Pawar, who lives in Borivli. The deadlock between the railway administration and the motormen ended only when the authorities assured them that Singh’s case would be reexamined.

"After we were assured by the railway administration that it will consider an appeal filed by Singh in the next seven days, we called off the protest around 5:30 pm," said Yadav. This is not the first time WR motormen have united in support of a colleague. In February 2010, WR motormen went on a flash strike to protest a colleague’s suspension.


OCT 2010 | WR motormen launch a go slow agitation after talks with the authorities over an internal issue fail to yield desired results. For four days motormen deliberately drove slowly saying they were adhering to "prescribed safety norms"

May 03, 2010 | Both Central and Western Railway motormen go on an indefinite hunger strike demanding a pay hike. Services limp back to normalcy on May 4, after the state government says it will invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) and threatens strikers with immediate arrests and disciplinary action

Feb 18, 2010 | Western Railway motormen go on a flash strike for half an hour to protest the suspension of one of their colleagues

Jan 21, 2010 | Central Railway trains run at a snail’s pace for hours motormen refuse to work overtime

It was bad enough reaching office in the morning because of the BEST strike. In the evening, Western Railway employees had us at their mercy when they went on a flash strike. The motormen’s strike was uncalled for. They could have discussed their demands with the railway management instead of going on a flash strike.


The motorman’s strike only added to Mumbaikars’ woes as it took place during the evening rush hour when people were returning home from work. A city cannot be held at ransom for a handful of people. The railway administration should take disciplinary action against the motormen who disrupted the service


Government employees should have a little sympathy for the common man. This is not the way to get their demands fulfilled. Stations like Churchgate were so crowded that even the slightest of scare would have resulted in a stampede


Why are Mumbaikars made to suffer because of the inefficiency of the government? I live in Kandivli, but my work place is in Fort. In the morning, I had to walk to the station because of the bus strike, and no autos were willing to ferry me. Then, in the evening I was stranded at Churchgate station for over an hour. The journey home was a nightmare as the ladies compartment was packed


Auto drivers were arrogant and demanding. I saw at least four to five commuters were literally running after one auto, but drivers either demanded more money or simply refused to ferry them. The government should ensure that there are alternate transport options available for commuters in such situations. There should be a strong presence of policemen and RTO officials to keep a check on errant auto and taxi drivers

Prakash Padikkal | SOCIAL ACTIVIST

There was utter chaos at Churchgate station on Thursday evening. There were no announcements about the delay or the strike, which only added to the confusion. People were very agitated 


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