Mumbai/New Delhi: The protest by agitating students that crippled the suburban train services on the Central Railway this morning was called off following Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s intervention, officials said. The Mumbai railway police, meanwhile, registered offences against hundreds of protesters, they added. Mumbai rail roko: Here’s why students blocked tracks and how govt convinced them to call off protests
During the protest, which started at 6.45 am, the agitating students blocked the tracks between Matunga and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) stations for three-and-a-half hours, forcing the railways to cancel 68 services and leaving thousands of commuters inconvenienced during the morning rush hour.
“We have registered a case against 800 to 1,000 people under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (assault or criminal force on public servant), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) of the IPC and relevant sections of the Bombay Police Act and the Indian Railways Act,” Samadhan Pawar, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Central Railway, said.
He added that two persons were arrested so far in connection with the protests that left about 11 personnel of the Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) injured due to stone pelting.
Goyal said the agitation by the students, who were seeking permanent jobs in the railways, was called off at 10:35 am.
He appealed to the protesters to apply for jobs during the railway recruitment drive, which will go on till March 31.
One of the major demands of the agitators, mostly comprising those who had been apprentices in the railways, was the scrapping of the 20-per cent upper limit while hiring apprentices.
Addressing a hurriedly-called press conference, Goyal said the 20 per cent posts were reserved in keeping with the “various judgments pronounced by the Supreme Court from time to time and as per section 22(1) of the Apprentices Act”.
These 20 per cent posts were reserved for the “course completed act apprentices”, who were already engaged with the railway establishment under the Apprenticeship Act, he added.
Goyal said a massive recruitment drive was going on to fill over 90,000 Group C and Group D posts in the railways and urged the protesters to apply for the vacancies, the last date for which is March 31.
“There has been no recruitment for four years. We are struggling. More than 10 students have committed suicide. We cannot let such things happen,” one of the protesters said.
Rail activist Subhash Gupta claimed that the agitation was a result of the “complete failure of the railway’s intelligence system”.
“Apprentice students from across the country assembled here yesterday and the railways could not get a whiff of it. That is why entire Mumbai was held hostage,” he said.
A section of railway officials, meanwhile, alleged that the agitation was instigated by “outsiders”.
A senior railway official, requesting anonymity, said, “There were very few students among the protesters. Most of them were outsiders, who held a meeting yesterday at the Railway Institute in Kurla Carshed and then decided to support the agitation.”
He refused to comment on whether the railways would probe the role of its own staffers in the agitation.
A section of the protesters later met Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and apprised him of their demands.