Allege difficulty in booking parcels in small railway stations
KOCHI: Faced with the prospect of losing their jobs, licensed porters of the Railways have demanded job security and welfare measures commensurate with regular employees of the organisation.
The general secretary of the Southern Railway Licensed Porters' Union (CITU), K.A. Ali Akbar, said that over 1.5 lakh licensed porters are engaged in loading/unloading work at 7,000 railway stations across the country.
"Different stations in Kerala alone have 1,400 porters. There are around 5,000 of them in stations that fall under the Southern Railway.
They have been engaged in loading/unloading work in parcel wagons and carrying baggage of passengers on their heads or in trolleys."
A few years ago the then BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre handed over some of these works to private agencies and contractors in some major stations. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government has not taken steps to ensure job protection to licensed porters.
The union further alleged that passengers, porters and operators of taxis and autos in smaller stations have been badly hit by the new rule of the Railways, according to which passengers are not allowed to carry luggage more 40 kg with them. Luggage in excess has to be transported in the parcel wagon.
As per rules, the parcel wagon is opened only in stations where the train halts for more than two minutes. Thus, passengers boarding from small and medium stations have to carry the luggage all the way to bigger stations and board trains from there.
Moreover, consignments like television sets, computer hardware etc. are prone to damage while being loaded/unloaded into parcel wagons. This would help only private contractors who have taken over work that was once done by the porters. Earlier too, porters had no other option but to run after the passengers, seeking to carry their baggage. Their plight has become worse now. Despite this, they are not covered by welfare measures of the Railways.
In his first budget after taking over as Union Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad had stated that licensed porters who lost jobs in the wake of privatisation setting in would be reassigned similar jobs in the Railways. But little has been done in this direction.
In the backdrop of these, the union has demanded that licensed porters be permitted to undertake all loading/unloading work in passenger and goods trains, reservation for porters in new openings, establishment of a welfare board for porters, reinstate parcel-booking facility in all stations and remove the upper-limit on the luggage that can be carried in passenger compartments of trains.
A memorandum to this effect has been given to the Union Railway Minister and Railway Board members.