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Mumbai train strike ends, normalcy in two days

Last updated on: May 4, 2010 20:36 IST

Motormen call off Mumbai train strike

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N Ganesh with Agency inputs

Motormen of Mumbai's suburban rail network -- used by seven million commuters daily -- called off their indefinite strike on Tuesday, bringing relief after they held the city to ransom for nearly two days.

With the threat of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) being invoked looming large, the motormen's union decided to call off their agitation after urgent talks with Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil.

Though the agitation has been called, the motormen's union said it would take almost two days for services to return to total normalcy.


Image: Most stations remained deserted on Tuesday
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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"It will take two days for the train services to normalise, as many motormen are hospitalised while some of them are in ICU," said Devendra Yadav, spokesperson of motormen union.

Despite claims by railway authorities that 20 per cent of train services were run on the Western railway and 30 per cent on the Central railway, a few 100 motormen had successfully brought the city to its knees.

The skeletal services proved insufficient for the heavy commuter traffic.


Image: Most stations remained deserted on Tuesday
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Motormen call off Mumbai train strike

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The strike by the suburban train drivers that affected normal life resonated even in Parliament where the Opposition targeted Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee for not doing anything to tackle the situation and also disrupted proceedings.

Congress members also joined in raising the issue.

Attendance in the state government offices in Mumbai was severely affected by the stir, which also brought chaos to the congested streets in large parts of the metropolis.


Image: Most stations remained deserted on Tuesday
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Motormen call off Mumbai train strike

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Sensing that the stir was paralysing normal life hitting hard office goers and students, the Centre even moved the High Court and sought its intervention for ending the stir by the motormen demanding wage hike entered the second day on Tuesday.

Slamming the motormen around the time when they called of the stir, a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice J N Patel and Justice S C Dharmadhikari said: "The situation in the city shocks the conscience of the court.

A few people have held the city to ransom and disrupted normal life by adopting means, which can not be permitted."


Image: Many offices were also deserted as many Mumbaikars decided to stay home
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Motormen call off Mumbai train strike

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The motormen withdrew the stir after the state government gave an assurance to them that it would mediate between the strikers and the Railway ministry.

Patil called the motormen for talks as Chief Minister Ashok Chavan spoke of invoking provisions of ESMA.

"The Centre has given us a go-ahead for invoking provisions of ESMA, but we are holding discussions with the railway unions and hoping for a positive outcome," Chavan told reporters after reviewing the situation.

20 motormen were also dismissed for failing to report to work. The motormen withdrew the stir after the state government gave an assurance to them that it would mediate between the strikers and the Railway ministry.


Image: The motormen on hunger strike on Monday night
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Motormen call off Mumbai train strike

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With the motormen pressing ahead with their stir, at least 170 suburban train drivers were taken into custody from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on charges of unlawful assembly and obstructing other rail employees from reporting to their duties.

After the strike was called off, Patil said police cases filed against the motormen and disciplinary action initiated against them would be withdrawn.

In Parliament, the government made an announcement of withdrawal of cases.

The government also said that a fast track committee is looking into the motormen's demands for increase in salary and allowances. The committee "is expected to submit its report by June 15.



Image: Lakhs of commuters were left stranded by the strike
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Motormen call off Mumbai train strike

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The suburban railways are Mumbai's lifelines.

They ferry 65 lakh passengers daily from their homes in the suburbs to their places of work in the city and back.

Daily, the Central railway runs 1494 suburban trains services with its army of 650 motormen spanning three districts of Mumbai, Thane and Raigad.

The Western railway runs 1200 train services with 397 motormen.



Image: Train services remained stalled in Mumbai on Tuesday
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
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