People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 12

March 24, 2013




Rly Loading-Unloading Workers Organise            


Kailash Chander Naik


THE Railway Loading and Unloading Workers’ Union, Jammu, held its first conference at the Railway Complex, Jammu, on March 17, 2013, amid enthusiasm. This was a significant event as these workers have been working as virtually bonded labourers for the last 40 years. Moreover, their work too is quite hazardous and has been leading to deadly diseases like cancer, TB, asthma etc, causing the death of a number of poor workers due to cement and fertiliser dust inhaled during the process of loading and unloading. Condemnably, their employers or contractors have so far never provided them the masks, safety uniforms and shoes which they require as minimal safety measures. Most of these workers belong to Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Nepal.


When these workers strove to organise themselves against this barbarous exploitation, the contractors and employers threatened them with dire consequences. Hired goons of these contractors and employers have also assaulted some of the workers. Despite all this, a union of theirs came into existence in the year 2010 due to the intervention of the CITU state committee, and got its registration on December 27, 2012.


Speaking on the occasion, CITU state president M Y Tarigami congratulated the workers for their first conference, appreciating their struggle against exploitation and also their significant role in all the protest actions organised by the CITU and by their own union. He termed as serious the plight of these poor workers who have not been provided any safety measures, accommodation, medical facilities, drinking water, bathrooms etc. He lambasted the labour department of Jammu & Kashmir and the employers for the non-coverage of these workers under the ambit of the ESI and Provident Fund benefits meant for their social security. He said there was no safety officer or labour officer deputed by the J&K labour department so far for these more than 600 workers. He said it seemed that the contractors and labour department have made a common cause for exploitation of these workers who serve the people of the state. These workers earn huge profits for their contractors while facing worst forms of exploitation and loot amid non-implementation of the basic labour laws concerning minimum wages, working hours, safety measures, social security benefits etc. He urged upon the workers to unite and unleash a militant struggle against their exploitation.


Senior CITU leader Sham Prasad Kesar said these workers were living in inhuman conditions, a number of them were suffering from prolonged diseases and many had died due to hazardous work and unsanitary habitations, but no compensation had ever been paid to the workers or their dependents. He also criticised the railway authorities, holding them responsible for the plight of these workers and demanding that the authorities must take these workers on the payroll of the railways and regularise their services as their work is totally related to the railway department.


State CITU general secretary Om Parkash, who is also president of the recently formed union, narrated the story of how the CITU state unit faced threats from the persons with criminal backgrounds and how it met the difficulties while organising these workers. He said so far we have achieved only a meagre increase in the wages of these workers and much more is yet to be done, for which we have to unite and prepare for powerful struggles.


Others who spoke were Pawan Kumar Gupta, Romesh Chander and Jagadish Sharma.


Kailash Chander Naik, general secretary of the union, conveyed thanks to the CITU state committee for its role in organising and educating the workers about their rights. He placed before the conference a resolution of demands, which was unanimously passed. The major demands are --- 50 per cent increase in wages, providing of safety uniforms, shoes and masks etc to all workers, suitable accommodations with bathrooms, safe drinking water, ESI benefits, provident fund, gratuity, compensation for injuries, weekly paid rest, overtime, dispensary and canteen facilities at the workplace, space for union’s office, free rail travel from Jammu to the home town and back to Jammu.


In the end the conference unanimously elected a committee to run the union, with two years tenure.