The national unions of rail workers, along with other central government employees, have announced plans to hold nationwide protests on February 23 to address a range of issues, including the involvement of private train operators, compensation for the families of rail employees who have died from Covid-19, and the monetisation of rail assets.
A meeting of the rail unions is scheduled to take place in Mumbai on January 23 to discuss these issues further.
Railway unions have expressed opposition to the idea of private train operators running on profitable routes, stating that the rail authorities are prioritising private trains over their own trains and that this is a step towards the privatisation of the Indian Railways.
The nationwide protest planned by Indian Railways unions is reportedly due to a number of issues that have gone unresolved by the government for the past 5-6 years. Sharif Pathan of the Western Railway Mazdoor Sangh said that they are holding this meeting on Monday where several issues affecting the rail employees are going to be discussed.
One of the pending issues is the ex-gratia payment to the families of railway employees who died while performing their duties due to Covid-19 infection. During the pandemic, the Indian Railways operated Shramik special trains and ensured the movement of food grains and other essential commodities.
Despite the dangers of the virus, rail employees were on the field, and some lost their lives while fulfilling their duties, yet ex-gratia has not been paid to all of them, according to the unions.
Railway unions are demanding the abolition of the National Pension System (NPS) and an end to the monetisation of railway assets, layoffs, corporatisation of Railway Production Units and outsourcing of railway activities. They argue that the work of railways is unique and complex, similar to that of defence forces.
They also want compensation for families of railway employees who died from Covid-19 while performing their duties. The rail authorities are also working with private developers to renovate stations, such as the recently announced ?1800 crore redevelopment of CSMT railway station, Mumbai. The unions are also pushing for better employee salaries and benefits.