'They are saying that we will now have to give a separate exam. For the last two years they have only been giving jumlas (false assurance) about employing us. Why should I give the exam again?'
So why did trains in Mumbai come to a sudden halt on Tuesday?
Angry students and young job-seekers seeking openings as railway apprentices halted the arterial Central Railway line between Matunga and CSMT (formerly VT station), disrupting local as well as outstation train services.
Bharat Pardeshi, one of the leaders from the All India Railway Act Apprentice Association, spoke to Rediff.com’s Syed Firdaus Ashraf about why they had to resort to the unpopular move, disrupting the lives of thousands of railway commuters in Mumbai.
What is the reason for the sudden rail roko in Mumbai?
The reason is that the railways has suddenly given us only 20 percent quota of jobs, which we do not agree with. We want the old system to continue.
What is this 20 percent quota of jobs?
So far all railway ministers have given jobs to the people who cleared the Railway Act apprentice exams. This government, however, for the last two years, is not employing those who have cleared the apprentice exam.
But why were you not given the jobs after cleaning the exam?
That is precisely what we are demanding to know from the railways. They are saying that we will now have to give a separate exam. For the last two years they have only been giving jumlas (false assurance) about employing us. Why should I give the exam again?
When did you pass the railway apprentice exam?
I cleared it in 2014-15 and till date I have not got a job in the railways.
There are so many vacancies in the railways but still they are not employing us in spite of us clearing the exams.
But Indian Railways recently announced that they will hire 90,000 people.
They are saying that but those who cleared the railway apprentice exams are not being hired. They want us to clear the exams again and do medical tests too.
They want us to do a physical training test too by placing a 40-kg bag on our shoulders and run for one kilometre.
They gave jobs till 2015 but after that they stopped recruiting new apprentices. What kind of justice is this?
How many of you have not got jobs after clearing the apprentice exam?
There are 21,000 in all who have not got jobs.
But why cause inconvenience to the public by stopping trains? Didn’t you inform the government about your protest plan?
We informed the government about our protests and I have proof of that in writing.
We alerted the government about our protest by sending a letter to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s personal assistant by Speed Post too, I have proof.
But you troubled the general public as well as students going for their exams, delaying them with your protests. Is it fair?
We had cross-checked earlier and there are no exams scheduled today in Mumbai. We too know student problem because we too are students.
The government forced us to take this decision. I have got signatures of 65 members of Parliament who supported our cause, but still the government did not bother to address our demands.
Did you meet Railway Minister Piyush Goyal about this issue?
I met Piyush Goyalji and begged for a job. There are vacancies in the railways but still nothing happened. I have done apprenticeship in railways but still my job was discontinued.
How many months did you serve as apprentice?
I did for one year from Valsad (in Gujarat). In an ideal situation I should have got a job after three months but the government changed the rules in 2016.
That was when Suresh Prabhu was railway minister.
Yes, he made that change. There was no logic.
I was trained to work in railways and also did my railway apprenticeship but still I did not get a job.