The Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh (CRMS) will go on an indefinite fast from April 3 if Central Railway persists with its plans to shift offices from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to turn the heritage structure into a museum.
The union has been protesting against the Railways’ move to shift offices over the past month. Its members have been on a relay hunger strike at CSMT since March 8. CRMS president P. Bhatnagar said, “They will be spending ₹1,500 crore on constructing the new GM’s office. Shifting will cost them ₹41 crore. Today, the Railways is asking its employees to vacate their government quarters because they are in a dilapidated condition. The Railways is not willing to spend money on that, but is stubborn about its plans to shift offices.”
Union officials also said the move will displace several employees who have been working there for decades. “They have not been told yet where they will be shifted to,” Mr Bhatnagar said. The union president added that the Railways should at least discuss matters that affect staff with the unions before taking such a big call. According to the union, around 1,000 employees will be directly affected by the move.
Pravin Bajpai, general secretary of CRMS, said, “We think the money they plan to spend on this project is unproductive. There are 3,000 Railways quarters in the Mumbai division that have been declared unsafe and in need of urgent repairs. There are several safety issues and passenger amenities [that need attention]. All we are saying is, spend the money on productive projects.”
He also said there has been a poor response to the existing museum, as people come mainly to see the architecture of the building. “There is no space to keep specimens of locomotives in this building. We have been protesting, but it doesn’t seem to have had the impact we expected and hence, we are taking this step.”
The project is Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s initiative, for which the Railway Board sanctioned ₹25 crore in the last budget. Mr. Goyal announced the project last November.