Mumbai rail roko protest: Piyush Goyal assures students of help, says 20% posts already reserved for apprentices

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday issued a statement on the rail roko protest by students in Mumbai held a few hours earlier, and said that 20 percent of the posts in railways were already reserved for apprentices.

"We have already reserved 20 percent 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 judgments pronounced by the 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," Goyal said in his statement.

"Indian Railways is currently 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 the Supreme Court," he added.

 Mumbai rail roko protest: Piyush Goyal assures students of help, says 20% posts already reserved for apprentices

Students protesting on railway tracks in Mumbai on Tuesday. Image procured by Sanjay Sawant

"This is the single largest recruitment ever undertaken by any organisation in India and also the largest opportunity for all sections of youth, including the apprentices, to join the Indian Railway in a very transparent and fair manner," Goyal said.

Goyal's statement came after hundreds of students blocked rail traffic, including suburban services, between the busy Matunga and Dadar stations, over a demand for jobs in the railways.

The protest was eventually called off after the government promised action on this issue.

Around 400 to 500 students from several states, who have done apprenticeship with the Indian Railways and want permanent jobs, sat on the railway tracks at about 6.45 am.

The disruption forced the Central Railway (CR) to stop suburban as well as express train services on the affected section — between Matunga and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) in south Mumbai.

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking (BEST), the transport wing of the city's civic body, was running additional bus services to help the stranded passengers and office-goers reach their destinations.

The protesters, who have passed their apprentice exam, are demanding full-time jobs in the Indian Railways and scrapping of the rail general manager's quota (GM quota) of filling in 20 percent vacancies. The protesting students also held placards displaying their demands.

In view of the agitation, the Central Railway authorities swung into action and said a fresh round of exams to recruit the apprentices will be held soon. "31 March is the last date to fill up forms for these apprentices, for the examination to be conducted shortly," said SK Jain, the divisional railway manager (DRM) of the CR's Mumbai division.

One of the protesting students said, "We want full-time absorption of the successful students in the railways, and scrapping of the GM quota. There has been no recruitment for the last four years. We are running from pillar to post. About 10 to 15 students have committed suicide."

Meanwhile, speaking in the Maharashtra Assembly on Tuesday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis lauded the Railways for the move. "The Railways are the first body to take the decision to reserve 20% of the seats for the apprentices. This would help everybody, because this would also stop back-door entry to these posts," he said.

Fadnavis denied using excessive force on the protesters and said things have concluded peacefully. "There was lathi-charge this morning only when there was stone-pelting. But nobody is wounded grievously. But talks have since progressed peacefully," he added.

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Updated Date: Mar 20, 2018 13:06:25 IST