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The protesters, mostly students in their early 20s, were demanding railway jobs since they had completed six-month apprenticeships with the national transporter. Photo: Reuters
The protesters, mostly students in their early 20s, were demanding railway jobs since they had completed six-month apprenticeships with the national transporter. Photo: Reuters

Rally by railway job aspirants in Mumbai assumes political colour

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and the opposition Congress linked the protest to the BJP-led government's failure to provide jobs

Mumbai: Thousands of commuters, mostly office-goers, on the central line of Mumbai’s suburban rail network were stranded on Tuesday morning as hundreds of railway job aspirants blocked trains for nearly three-and-a-half hours.

The blockade soon assumed a political colour after some protesters met Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and the opposition Congress linked the protest to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s failure to provide jobs.

The blockade between Matunga and Dadar stations also witnessed incidents of stone-pelting.

The police cane-charged protesters after the stone-pelting, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told the legislative assembly, where the opposition raised the issue.

Fadnavis said some protesters had received minor injuries.

Later, the railways released a list of names of Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel who were injured in the stone-pelting.

The protesters, mostly students in their early 20s, were demanding railway jobs since they had completed six-month apprenticeships with the national transporter.

However, Sunil Udasi, chief public relations officer, Central Railways, issued a statement saying, “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 give them experience of having worked in the field. However, ministry of railways has reserved 20% of the seats filled through direct recruitment with apprentices trained in railway establishments under the Act. The notification is already issued with March 31, 2018 as the last date for submitting applications."

Railway minister Piyush Goyal also issued a statement urging the protesters to join the Indian Railways which he said was in the midst of a “massive recruitment exercise".

“Indian Railways has come out with a policy to ensure a fair, transparent and competitive recruitment process that follows the law and the guidelines laid down by Hon’ble Supreme Court. We have already reserved 20% posts for Course Completed Act Apprentices who were engaged in Railway establishments under the Apprenticeship Act. This has been done as per Section 22(1) of the Apprentices Act and the various judgements pronounced by the Hon’ble Supreme Court from time to time. Applicants who completed the apprenticeship course have also been given an age relaxation equal to the period of apprenticeship," the statement says.

Goyal also added that this was the single largest recruitment ever undertaken by any organization in India.

After the protest was called off following a written assurance by the railways that an entrance examination will be conducted for those job aspirants who had completed apprenticeship, some protestors met MNS chief Raj Thackeray. Thackeray, who in the past has rooted for recruitment of only Marathi youths in the railway jobs advertised in Maharashtra, extended his support to the protestors but did not issue any statement. The protestors included a large number of Marathi-speaking youths but also comprised aspirants from other parts of India.

Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, leader of the opposition in the legislative assembly, said the protest was living proof that the BJP-led government had failed to provide jobs. Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition in the legislative council, charged the Fadnavis government with “intelligence failure" for not anticipating the protest that he said had held Mumbai commuters to ransom. In Delhi, a delegation of Shiv Sena MPs met Goyal and stated their support for the job aspirants.

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