With their years of experience in manoeuvring trains and their in-depth knowledge of signalling systems, most railway motormen would be justified in considering themselves good candidates for jobs as Metro train drivers. But over 200 motormen on the rolls of the city’s railway authorities who submitted applications hoping to upgrade to the Metro services were in for a rude shock. Most of their applications were met with a stony silence from the Metro authorities and not a single applicant was hired.
Inside sources have revealed that they were given a wide berth because their notorious predilection for staging frequent protests and holding up services made the Metro authorities wary. One of the applicants said, “A few motormen have been called for interviews, but I didn’t even get the call. None of my colleagues have received any replies yet from the Metro services. I applied to the Metro services hoping for a change, as I am not happy with the work atmosphere here. I wanted to move out of here. We don’t even get weekly holidays, and have to work 365 days a year.”
Letting the cat out of the bag, a Metro official revealed that authorities aren’t keen on hiring the railway motormen as they have acquired a notoriety for staging frequent protests. “The image of motormen from the suburban section is very bad, and we have many willing applicants from among them. But we didn’t find them suitable. They are known to have threatened authorities over small demands. Also, they were expecting huge salaries,” said a Metro rail official, requesting anonymity.
The Metro rail project, which is being undertaken in three phases, is scheduled for completion in 2021. Phase I will be completed in 2015, but part of the network between Versova and Ghatkopar will be ready by May this year. The Metro rail network will come with an advanced and complex signalling system as well as automated train protection systems to control the trains’ movements. Siemens will supply the signalling systems for the trains. The motormen for local trains are trained well to operate signals, and undergo compulsory training sessions in signalling every six months.
Looking for a switch
“Instead of recruiting new drivers for the Mumbai Metro, they can hire us, as we can run the trains better. An experienced person is always better for such jobs where there is risk of life involved. But the Metro authorities are not keen on appointing us,” said another motorman, adding that many of his friends are awaiting calls from the Metro officials.
Sandeep Silas, divisional railway manager, Western Railway, said, “I am not aware that motormen from the railways have applied to work as Metro rail drivers, but if they have applied, there is nothing wrong with that. They must have thought about better opportunities.” Bharat Bhushan Modgil, project head for the Metro rail, confirmed, “We have received applications from the railway motormen but there were issues with their salaries.” Asking for more time, an MMOPL spokeserperson said, “We need to verify the facts.”
>> On July 20, 2012, 232 motormen from the Western Railways, all in the same shift, did not report to work and took mass sick leave. Suburban services on the Western Railway line were disrupted for over two hours. The demand was for better working conditions and a pay hike. The strike took two lives and injured six passengers.
>> On August 19, 2011, WR motormen brought Mumbai to a standstill after they went on a flash strike demanding that the railway authorities reinstate a colleague who was to be suspended from his duties
>> In 2010, the motormen went on strike in January, February, May and October. Motormen from both Central and Western lines carried out the May 3 strike, demanding a pay hike.
At present I travel by bus from Ghatkopar station to Andheri but after the Metro services start, my life will be easy and peaceful. But it’s my request to the Metro authorities that they refrain from appointing the local train motormen, especially those who work on the western line.
- Vasant Sarpotdar, Ghatkopar resident who commutes to Andheri
I have been working for the last six years and travel by train. I was stranded in Churchgate station when the WR motormen went on strike. It was, hands down, the worst experience of my life. They should not be given opportunities in the Metro, for then Metro passengers will also have to suffer in the same manner.
- Rekha Singh, Thane resident
On July 20, 2012, 232 motormen from the Western Railways, all in the same shift, did not report to work and took mass sick leave
On August 19, 2011, WR motormen went on a flash strike (pic above) demanding that the railway authorities reinstate a colleague who was suspended