A flash agitation by job-seekers over issues pertaining to railway recruitment has culminated in a rail-blockade, police caning and retaliatory stone-throwing leading to a virtual paralysis of the Central Railway (CR) suburban train services here on Tuesday.
For nearly three hours, the services were severely disrupted as the protestors squatted and laid on the railway tracks between Matunga and Dadar on the CR.
The agitation 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.
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.
Attempting to restore normalcy, the local police resorted to a mild lathi-charge to disperse the protestors. Some retaliated by pelting stones at the police.
At least five persons and a couple of police personnel were injured in the fracas even as top police and railway officials rushed to the site to control the situation.
The protests were carried out by activists of the All India Act Apprentice Association (AAAAA). It demanded 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 upto the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who met them but there was no progress in the matter.A
Shiv Sena MP from Mumbai Rahul Shewale met top CR officials to resolve the situation and later said that the railways would hire over 12,400 candidates who have cleared their apprenticeship exams.
However, the agitators refused to call off their agitation unless they were given a written undertaking by the railway authorities.
A CR spokesperson said that there was no provision of giving job 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.
Meanwhile, the BEST has deployed extra buses to ferry commuters to and fro from various points like Dadar, Matunga, Kurla, Sion and other stations.
The protests threw out of gear the entire suburban and long distance railway schedules in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Pune with commuters stranded for hours.
The opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have demanded a discussion on the issue in the Maharashtra Legislature on a priority basis.
( 493 Words)