Parliament paralysed over Mumbai motormen strike

As Railway motormen brought Mumbai to a standstill, MPs, including from Congress, on Tuesday paralysed functioning of Parliament over the issue, expressing solidarity with striking employees and targetting Railway Minister.

New Delhi: As Railway motormen brought Mumbai
to a standstill, MPs, including from Congress, on Tuesday paralysed
functioning of Parliament over the issue, expressing
solidarity with striking employees and targetting Railway
Minister Mamata Banerjee for failing to avert the situation.

Proceedings in the Lok Sabha were disrupted as opposition
members, particularly those from Shiv Sena, BJP and Left
parties, continuously created uproar forcing three
adjournments till 5:30 PM.
Members of these parties, along with those of Congress
and RJD, said the notice for agitation had been given months
back and questioned why the Railway Minister did not do
anything to resolve the matter.

Banerjee was away in West Bengal in connection with
Municipal polls.

The issue was raised in the Rajya Sabha also with BJP
members accusing the Railway Minister of "inaction" and
demanding a response from the government on the matter.

Lok Sabha witnessed an impromptu debate, which was capped
by a clash between Trinamool and Left members after Trinamool
leader Sudip Bandopadhyay apparently hurled some expletives at
CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia.

Bandopadhyay lost temper when Acharia, along with members
of other parties, was insisting on immediate response from

Nothing could be heard in the din that followed
Bandopadhyay`s attack on Acharia. Several members were seen
rushing towards the Trinamool leader to pacify him.

While Acharia remained calm, his party colleague
Ramachandra Dom responded angrily to Bandopadhyay`s
utterances, leading to a clash and prompting Speaker Meira
Kumar to adjourn the House till 2 PM.

Similar scenes were witnessed when the House reassembled
and it was adjourned till 5:30 PM.

Earlier, the issue was raised by Shiv Sena and BJP members
as soon as the House met for the day. In view of the uproar,
the Speaker adjourned the House till 12 PM.

The issue was again raised by Shiv Sena as Zero Hour
started, with its members trooping into the well. Carrying
placards, they chanted slogans like "Mumbai ki local train
chalu karo, nahi to sansad nahi chalega (resume services of
Mumbai local trains, otherwise the House will not run)."

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said he
would convey the sentiments to Banerjee. This, however, did
not satisfy the members and they continued to shout slogans.
Sensing the mood, the Speaker allowed leaders of parties
to speak on the issue and a discussion ensued.

The members who spoke on the issue were Anant Geete (Shiv
Sena), Sanjay Nirupam (Congress), Gopinath Munde (BJP),
Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M), Sanjeev Naik (NCP), Gurudas Dasgupta
(CPI), Sudip Bandopadhyay (Trinamool) and Lalu Prasad (RJD).

Barring Bandopadhyay, all other members said the notice
for strike had been given months back and questioned why the
Railway Minister did not do anything to avert the situation.

Responding to their concerns, Bansal said he would soon
"get in touch" with Banerjee to convey the sentiments of the
House. "I will try to ensure that a statement is made at the
earliest possible," he said.

He said those members who have "influence" on the striking
employees should use it to ensure the stir ends.

Earlier, initiating the discussion, Geete said suburban
train network is the "lifeline" of Mumbai and the strike had
brought the city to a grinding halt as 65 lakh people travel
by it every day.

He warned that the situation could lead to riots as
travellers were stranded and on the roads since last night.

"If riots take place, the entire responsibility will be on
the Railway Ministry," Geete said.

Demanding withdrawal of Essential Services Maintenance
Act (ESMA) and release of the agitating employees arrested,
Geete said talks should be held with the striking employees to
resolve the matter.

"If you can hold talks with terrorists, why not with the
employees who have genuine grievances," he said.
He said since the Railway Minister was not present in the
House, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister should appeal to
agitationists to end strike and come for talks as it was the
collective responsibility of the government.

Supporting Geete, Nirupam said the employees had warned of
the stir six months back while giving their representations to
the Railway Minister and the Railway Board.

Action was promised but nothing happened leading to the
present situation, the Congress leader said and added, the
matter "has to be resolved in terms of minutes and seconds".

BJP leader Gopinath Munde said motormen had given strike
notice on January 26 and he had written about the issue to the
Railway Minister a month ago, "but there has been no response
and now the motormen are being arrested and sacked".

He warned that law and order was getting "out of control"
in Mumbai as large number of people were stranded and demanded
that Banerjee should come to the House and respond

CPI(M) leader Acharia said the motormen had been raising
their demands for the past one year and there has been no
response from the government.

"Their grievances are not being addressed. This is
injustice," he said, adding that ESMA should be withdrawn,
those arrested released and those sacked taken back.

Bandopadhyay said Banerjee was in West Bengal as it was
the last day for filing of nominations for the civic polls. He
said he would convey the sentiments to her and she would
respond, triggering protests from opposition members.

"If the Railway Minister can be contacted, she will
respond," the Trinamool leader said.
He said the issue was raised by Geete in the House last
week and he had conveyed it to the Railway Minister.

On the warning by Shiv Sena member that there could be
riots in Mumbai if the present situation with regard to
suburban train system continued, Bandopadhyay said "communal
riots" cannot take place if Sena does not engineer these.

Lalu Prasad, for a change, came on the side of Shiv Sena
on the riots issue, saying Geete did not talk about
Hindu-Muslim violence.

Supporting the strike by motormen, the former Railway
Minister said it was beyond party politics as poor people from
all over the country were affected.

He said during his tenure too, the motormen had raised the
issue and he had defused the situation by talking to them.

Appealing to the motormen to end the stir, he said,
"whenever Mamata (Banerjee) gets time, she should talk to
them." He asked the government not to make it a prestige

After the discussion, Bansal said he would try to contact
Banerjee and ensure that a statement is given.

This did not pacify the opposition members and suddenly,
Bandopadhyay was seen shouting angrily at Basudeb Acharia.

Bansal and several members from various parties rushed
towards Bandopadhyay to pacify him. Bandopadhyay appeared to
be exhausted and asked for water, which was immediately served
to him as he sat in his chair surrounded by several members.

In the Rajya Sabha, BJP members said, Mumbai has come
to a halt because of "inaction of the Railway Minister".

Targeting Banerjee, they said while 25 lakh people were
stuck on railway platforms in Mumbai, the Railway Minister was
in Kolkata.

Deputy Chairman K Rehman Khan described the situation
caused by the strike as "a serious matter" and said he has
issued directions to the government to respond.

On behalf of the government, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi
Azad said he would convey the concern of the members to the
Railway Minister after he finishes his reply on a calling
attention notice on the Medical Council of India.

BJP`s Deputy Leader S S Ahluwalia said the government
should have come to the House suo motu and apprised it of the
situation arising out of the strike.


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