Central Railway (CR) services came to a halt during the peak hours on Tuesday morning due to rail-roko observed by 400-500 apprentice students who were demanding permanent jobs.
The agitation that began at around 7 am between Matunga and Dadar stations on all the four lines was called off several hours later. Train services have resumed on the Central Line. Railways minister Piyush Goel is scheduled to address a press conference at 11:45am on this issue.
According to an RPF estimate, there were more than 3,000 protesters who had come from from as far as Bhusaval. Some had even come from Punjab and MP. Protesters on the other hand claimed that their strength was above 10,000.
Central Railway spokesperson said, "Due to some agitation between Matunga and Dadar, rail traffic is affected between Matunga and CSMT from CSMT."
Apart from office-goers, students too were affected because of the agitation that was specifically planned to hit peak hours.
Railway Protection Force and Government Railway Police personnel rushed to clear the site. Police had to resort to lathicharge as the protesters pelted stones at them.
Some commuters complained that the number of BEST buses plying isn't sufficient and their frequency too is not as expected. There are crowds at bus stops and people are desperately waiting to get a public transport to reach offices in south Mumbai. Several other commuters also complained that the taxis outside Sion and Matunga stations are refusing to ferry them and many cabs moved out from the area after learning about the agitation and huge passenger rush.
"There is no provision of giving jobs to the apprentices as per the Apprentice Act. They are given only training for a specified period to improve their skills and experience of having worked in the field. However, Ministry of Railways have taken a decision and reserved 20% of the seats filled through direct recruitment.
"The notification is already issued with last date of submitting application as 31.3.2018. Apprentices can apply against this notification and Special Examination will shortly be held for Apprentices who have done training in Railway Workshops under Apprentices Act," said a release issued by the Central Railway on Tuesday.
Top 10 developments surrounding the 'rail roko' protest by agitating railway job aspirants:
1) Railway services resume: The Railways traffic between Dadar and Matunga in Mumbai resumed after hours of agitation, according to news agencies. The agitating railway job aspirants were still present at the spot where they have been protesting.
2) Rail blockade disrupts normal life: The rail-blockade, police caning, and retaliatory stone-throwing caused a virtual paralysis of the Central Railway suburban train services. For nearly three hours, services were severely disrupted as protestors squatted and laid down on the railway tracks between Matunga and Dadar. The 'rail roko' led to a cascading effect even on the Western Railway with all trains running packed to capacity, the roads linking Mumbai with the mainland, and the two highways slicing through the country's commercial capital. The protest comes at a time when more than 4.5 million commuters were badly hit for the second consecutive day following a strike called on Monday by drivers of cab aggregators and app-based taxis that disrupted in Mumbaikars' schedules.
3) Police resorts to lathi-charge: Attempting to restore normalcy, the local police resorted to a mild lathi-charge to disperse the protestors. Some protestors retaliated by pelting stones at the police. At least five persons and a couple of police personnel were injured in the exchange even as top police and railway officials rushed to the site to control the situation.
4) Protestors belong to All India Act Apprentice Association: The protests were carried out by activists of the All India Act Apprentice Association (AAAAA). It demanded the scrapping of the 20 per cent quota for direct recruitment and jobs for local candidates in all states who have cleared the All India Railway Act Apprentice Exams. They claimed they had taken up their demands right up to the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who met them but there was no progress in the matter.
5) 'No provision of giving jobs to apprentices': A CR spokesperson said that there was no provision of giving jobs to apprentices as per the Apprentice Act who are only trained for a specific period to hone their skills and gain experience. "However, the Ministry of Railways has taken a decision and reserved 20 per cent of the seats filled through direct recruitment. The notification is already issued with the last date of submitting application on March 31. Apprentices can apply against this notification and Special Examination will shortly be held for apprentices who have done training in Railway Workshops under the Apprentices Act," the spokesperson said.
6) Students blocked tracks from 7 am today: The agitating students blocked the rail tracks from 7 am in the morning today, forcing the Railways to stop the suburban as well as express train in the affected section between Matunga and CSMT.
7) Four lines between Matunga and CSMT affected: The entire four lines between Matunga and CSMT have been affected, said the Central Railway official. Further, police and Railways officials are conducting talks with them, added the official.
8) 'Over 10 students have committed suicide': A student who was part of the protest told news agencies: "There has been no recruitment since past four years. We are struggling from pillars to post. Over 10 students have committed suicide. We cannot let such things happen."
9) 'Won't budge until Piyush Goyal meets us': Another agitating student told news agencies: "We will not budge from here until and unless Railway Minister Piyush Goyal comes and meets us. Our several prayers made to DRM (Divisional Railway Manager of Mumbai Division) have failed."
10) Police, Railways offcials speaking to students: Chief PRO of Central Railways, Sunil Udasi, told news agencies: "Mumbai police along with GRP and RPF jawans are having talks with the students and railway's first priority was to clear the track first."