Mumbai rail roko | Highlights: Protest called off, but agitators warn of another stir; train services resume

Commuters in Mumbai travelling on the Central Railway (CR) struggled on Tuesday, after railway apprentices decided to protest against the railway recruitment system by resorting to rail roko between Matunga and Dadar railway stations on the main line during the morning rush hours.

The railways select and appoint apprentices for various technical jobs, to be done in their various workshops across India. Earlier, these apprentices were absorbed into the railways as they got preference during recruitments. However, in 2016, the railway ministry decided to stop this and offer them just a 20% quota. Since then, ,many apprentices have not been able to get railway jobs and have been staging protests.

Protesters on Tuesday blocked all the CR lines, so both the slow and fast local train services ahead of Matunga have been shut completely, forcing commuters to walk on tracks. “Due to some agitation between Matunga and Dadar, rail traffic has been affected between Matunga and CSMT,” said Sunil Udasi, chief public relations officer, CR.

The agitation started after 7am, and went on for around three-and-a-half hours.

Here are the highlights:

11.51am: Protesters head to Bandra (east), likely to meet MNS chief Raj Thackeray at MIG Club.

11.30am: Tracks cleared and trains running. A few protesters complain that they were injured in the lathicharge; some policemen also injured when agitators pelted stones, says GRP DCP Samadhan Pawar.

11.06am: “Agitators have been advised that there will be an exam exclusively for them under the 20% quota and that they may apply for it up to March 31. For anything else they have to represent their case to concerned officers of the Railway Board as the matter has all-India policy implications,” says SK Jain, divisional railway manager, CR.

11am: “We held a similar agitation in Delhi too, but our demands were not met and we got only a verbal assurance. That is why we decided to hold a protest in Mumbai. We have withdrawn our agitation only after getting a written assurance,” said Shubham Tambat, an apprentice who came to Mumbai from Jalgaon. “We want more than 20% quota,” said Ghusaran who has come from Punjab.

10.54am: “We have withdrawn our agitation as the railways have promised to give us a reply within two days. They give us training but then they don’t want to employ us. How is this fair? People have come from all over India to protest. We will agitate further if our demands are not met,” says Somit Singh, a railway apprentice who came to the city from Gujarat to participate in the stir.

10.44am: Agitators celebrate at Dadar station. Their demands have not been met, but railway officials assured protesters that a meeting would be held to discuss the issue within two to three days.

10.37am: Local train services resume slowly.

10.36am: Tracks slowly being cleared; outstation trains that have been stuck start moving.

10.35am: Protesters finally call of their stir after negotiations with railway officials.

10.25am: GRP ACP Machindra Chavan said there was a “mild lathicharge” to clear protestors from the tracks, but they did not budge. Negotiations are still on.

10.15am: BEST fails to bring out all its buses as many drivers and conductors who live in the eastern suburbs are stuck and have not reached work due to the agitation. BEST has, however started operating extra buses from Dharavi, Matunga, Mulund, Ghatkopar and Wadala, among other places.

10.14am: Railway Protection Force officials say there are around 3,000 protesters on the tracks at Matunga.

10.12am: Heavy police bandobast outside Kurla railway station.

10.10am: “I boarded a train from Ambernath and was heading to Dadar. My train was stuck for close to two hours near Kalyan. Now, I’m walking back towards Ambernath,” said commuter Ajay Tribhuvan.

10.05am: Railway minister will brief the media at Rail Bhavan at 11.45am.

10.02am: Passengers at Thane, Kurla, Dadar and other stations complain that they are unable to get taxis and auto-rickshaws.

10am: Railway officers reach the spot now, close to two hours after the rail roko began.

9.53am: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena workers reach the spot. Former MNS corporator Sandeep Deshpande, who is at the spot, said: “We have come here to request students to leave the tracks, but they are not ready to listen,” he said, questioning why no railway officials have reached the site.

9.50am: Tired of waiting inside trains, commuters start walking on tracks at Kurla, too.

9.45am: Those who get their lunches delivered by the dabbawalas may not get their food on time. “Several dabbawalas are stuck on trains between Matunga and Kalyan stations. Our service on the main line will remain affected, but service to other parts of the city will be unaffected,” said Subhash Talekar, a spokesperson of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association.

9.40am: “I live in Titwala and it has been more than two hours since I’m stuck in a local train near Thane. I need to go to Bandra. I have no clue when will I reach my office,” said commuter Sheetal Sharma.

9.35am: Meghan Patankar, a Kalyan resident who is on his way to his office at Navy Nagar, Colaba, said he has been stuck in a local between Diva and Thane on the fast line for at least 20 minutes. “My local was held up near Thane creek for 15-20 minutes. So I got off at the next station, and I have decided not to even try to get to work today,” he said.

9.30am: Railway Protection Force, Government Railway Police and city police try to convince protesters to move off the tracks.

9.26am: “I was stuck near Kurla for more than one hour. I am an instructor and I was heading towards Ghatkopar to teach. I jumped off the train and am walking on the track to Ghatkopar station. I had no idea about the rail roko, otherwise I would not have stepped out of home,” says Kavita Joil, a Currey Road resident.

9.15am: Commuters get off trains, walk on tracks to get to work.

9.10am: The BEST Undertaking said it has directed all depot managers to operate extra bus services in wake of the agitation at Matunga.

9am: Lakhs of commuters stuck in locals train due to agitation. Commuters complain that they have not got any updates about when trains will leave or services resume.