Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Against the pathetic working conditions and unlimited working hours the agitated loco running staff organized All India strike from 1973 August 1st.

In the early morning on August 1, 1973, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Railway Minister L. N. Mishra woke up to the news that the train services all over the country has come to a grinding halt owing to the nationwide strike of the loco running staff. The news of the strike spread all over the country and abroad through the media such as AIR, BBC and news papers. As days passed, thermal plants were running short of coal resulting in power shortage, movement of rice, wheat, petroleum products and other essential commodities were badly affected and passengers were stranded in railway stations or had to cancel their planned journeys. The Parliament plunged into pandemonium. Members cutting across party lines supported the loco men’s strike and wanted the government to call AILRSA leaders for discussion on their demand for reduction of duty hours and other demands and an early end to the strike that had crippled the country.

The government called AILRSA leaders for discussion. Many of them were flown by air to New Delhi for want of train services due to the strike and to save time in restoring train services. The talks started on August 10. The Railway Minister, the Labour Minister, Railway Board officials and AILRSA leaders participated. An agreement was reached on August 13 and the strike was called off. The main demand of reduction of duty hours was conceded and a Loco Running staff Grievances Committee (LRSGC) was formed under the chairmanship of Mohammed Shafi Qureshi, Minister of State for Railways, with members of Railway Board and AILRSA leaders to discuss and settle other issues. (Gradually this was extended to zonal and divisional levels.) The matters on which agreement was arrived at was prepared and signed by Labour Minister Raghunatha Reddy on behalf of Central Government and given to AILRSA leaders. Next day, Railway Minister made a statement in Parliament on the terms of agreement between the government and AILRSA. Both the agreement and the Minister’s statement in Parliament unequivocally stated that the loco running staff need not be required to work more than 10 hours at a stretch. All the loco men arrested for participating in the strike were released unconditionally. The days of absence from duty and the days under detention in jails were treated as leave.

But both the recognized Federations opposed any settlement with AILRSA, the Railway Board was also opposed it. They tried to sabotage the agreement

The government and the railway officials went back from their commitment on 10 hours duty and from other commitments. Railway Board order on 10 hours duty was invalidated by the Board itself in the name of clarification and the CAT/ERS judgment on duty hours was distorted to raise the minimum duty hours to 13. LRSGC and other channels were abandoned. It is as if we have to start everything afresh.

But the 1973 loco running staff strike is written in golden letters in the history of railway trade union movement as the only strike in Indian Railways that ended with a discussion and agreement with the staff representatives. The message is that if the employees are well organised, and if our demands are genuine, we can make even the government of the strongest Prime Minister to come to terms. And that is the importance of August 13.

The victory of the Loco Men strike pave way to the Railway Men strike of 1974, biggest strike ever seen by India.

With the support of Communist and Socialist leaders Sri George Fernandes, a socialist leader competed and won as AIRF president. He take initiation to mobilize entire Railway Trades unions. The convention was attended by over 125 Railway trade unions.


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