WR’s local train drivers will no longer be an exclusive cadre; they will lose their stranglehold over the city
For all the trouble Western Railway motormen caused this year - disrupting services on the western line twice - it took just a terse, three-line letter to put them in place.
The WR on Tuesday issued an order, breaking the monopoly its 400 motormen have had over operation of local trains by ceasing their direct recruitment.
So while till now, WR motormen joined as motormen and retired in the same role, thus becoming something of an exclusive club, it will no longer be so.
The motormen often abused this exclusive control over locals, holding commuters to ransom by striking work to have their demands met.
On August 18 this year, motormen protesting the sacking of a colleague had resorted to a flash strike in the afternoon leaving lakhs of WR commuters stranded.
The motormen deliberately timed their strike to coincide with a stop-work protest of BEST drivers and conductors. On June 17, motormen ran trains slow, throwing the entire schedule haywire. They were protesting the promotion of two motormen, not belonging to their union, as instructors at the WR’s Mahalaxmi Training Institute.
In May last year, motormen of both CR and WR struck work for almost 40 hours leaving the city paralysed.
The order issued on Tuesday breaks this stranglehold of motormen on locals. It reads - ‘It is advised that the competent authority has decided that henforth there will be no direct recruitment in the category of motormen.’
What this means is that a driver will join as an assistant loco pilot; get promoted to handle freight trains; and then go on to running suburban locals. Those who do well as motormen will get promoted as Mail/Express driver. A lucky few could go all the way and become Rajdhani, Shatabdi drivers, the highest and best-paid category of train drivers in the city.
So, the next time motormen go on strike, WR will summon drivers who have experience of handing locals to fill in. Also, since motormen will not be condemned to retire as motormen, their will be incentive for them to be at their best behaviour.
WR is the only railway zone in India where motormen are a separate category. Aware of their indispensability, the motormen formed an unrecognised union called the Western Railway Motormen’s Association that has time and again taken on the railway administration and won hands down.
The confrontations - mostly over punishments given to offending colleagues and sometimes for better pay and working conditions - have resulted in some of the most crippling traffic problems the city has ever seen.
“The era of direct recruitment of motormen on WR, something that started as a temporary emergency measure in the 1980s but continued ever since, is finally over. Hopefully in some time as drivers of other trains get promoted to the category of motormen in WR, the threat of strikes would also cease,” said a senior railway official.