The men in orange and khaki one sees every day along railway tracks, come rain or shine, to ensure tracks, overhead cables and signals are all in working order are being made to do some extracurricular jobs. The railway labourers, called gangmen, have complained that a certain railway officer often puts them on personal chores and make them do other menial jobs.
In a complaint letter forwarded to divisional railway manager (Mumbai), Western Railway at Mumbai Central, they allege that Jagdish Chaudhary, who joined as the suburban senior divisional electrical engineer (Sr DEE) from Ratlam, has been employing gangmen, known as khalasis, for carrying out his household work.
If sources are to be believed, on January 13, Chaudhary asked a few gangmen to unload goods and furniture from a train stabled at Mumbai Central station. At the time, the labourers were supposed to be surveying tracks during the jumbo block on Mahalaxmi-Santacruz stretch.
“During the block period, the labourers were asked to unload goods from a coach into a truck and take it to Chaudhary’s residence at Badhwar Park in Colaba,” said K Gaikwad, general secretary, Maharashtra Navnirman Railway Kamgar Sena. “At a time when we are seeing regular delays in train services and technical errors on tracks, there was every need for these men to be working during the block,” said a Western Railway employee.
12-hr house shift
Chaudhary also commanded two other gangmen, Rajesh Kahar and Muneshwar Singh, to do his household chores on two different occasions. The complaint, written by Kahar, mentions that one of Chaudhary’s subordinates asked him to go to the Sr DEE’s house in Badhwar Park by 9.30 am on January 1, where the officer asked him to “wipe the floor, wash clothes and iron them”.
The letter adds that the recently appointed officer asked Kahar to go to his house every morning at 8 to do odd jobs like drop his kids to school, go to the market, drop lunch at his office, until 8 pm. Kahar reported the incident to his superiors saying he was uncomfortable running Chaudhary’s domestic errands, as it was not part of his job. Later, he was suspended for not following orders.
Divisional secretary of Western Railway Mazdoor Sangh Ajay Singh said, “I came to know of the issue from other members. It is unfair to expect any gangman to do household work for an officer. They are here to do government work, not personal chores of an officer.” In another incident, khalasi Muneshwar Singh was asked to go to Chaudhary’s house on January 10 for the same household routine. He refused to comply and complained to the union.
DY Mahale, divisional chairman, Western Railway Employees Union (WREU), said, “We received complaints about the incidents and asked the officials to recall the suspension orders of these gangmen.” The matter escalated to a level that on January 15-16, union members met senior WR officials including the divisional railway manager and the additional divisional railway managers (ADRMs).
On January 16, WREU and other unions also held meetings with the ADRMs and Sr DEE Chaudhary. “Chaudhary has promised he would not make use of railway khalasis for his personal work,” said Gaikwad. R Palande, president, Western Railway Staniya Lokadhikar Samiti, said, “Asking the labourers to do personal work is wrong, especially if it happens at the cost of maintenance of rail lines.”
The other side
J Chaudhary, senior DEE (suburban), Western Railway, said, “Most of these people who came to my house aren’t from recognised unions.” “It is possible that these unions want to suppress the new officer in the division. Why would anyone allow an outsider in their house to do house work, which could be risky for the family?” wondered a senior WR official.