NEW DELHI: Nearly 40,000 to 50,000 people, members of various Railway unions, are holding a protest march to Parliament in the national capital on Tuesday. The unions are demanding the withdrawal of the National Pension System (NPS) and improvement of minimum wages.
The unions are also demanding a hike in minimum pay to Rs 26,000 from the current Rs 18,000.
"Under the NPS, the defined minimum pension or family pension is no more guaranteed for those employees who came in government service on or after 2004, although they are regularly contributing 10 per cent of their wages every month towards this scheme," said Shiv Gopal Mishra, general secretary of All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) at a press conference.
Railwaymen from all across the country are participating in the protest. However, the union assured that no rail services will be disrupted and select few employees will continue to man the services.
“We have given instructions that no trains will be stopped or delayed because of our march. However, there will be a lot of absentees. Most of those affected are youngsters and they are very upset and angry," said Mishra.
In February 2016, the AIRF had conducted a secret ballot for its members to decide the future course of action if its demands weren't met. Ninety-five per cent of the 9,00,000 railwaymen who voted supported a strike. These employees included railway men from across the country, including 17 zones and seven production units of the Indian Railways.
Mishra said while social security to retired government employees was achieved after a prolonged struggle, it was virtually withdrawn with the introduction of the NPS from January 2004.
The demand to scrap the NPS was one of the main demands made by the central government employees last year. A three-member committee of ministers headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh was formed to discuss the grievances but there was no progress.
"There is anger and anguish not just among railwaymen, but also among bureaucrats, over this. We have been assured again and again that our demands will be met, but nothing has happened so far. If they do not relent, then we will have to stick together and the next step could well be disruptive," Mishra said.
In 1974, railway employees demanding a wage increase staged a strike that crippled life in the country for almost three weeks.
With agency inputs