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Railway Workers and Their Unions: Origins of 1974 Indian Railways Strike

Stephen Sherlock
Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 24, No. 41 (Oct. 14, 1989), pp. 2311-2315+2317-2319+2321-2322
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4395459
Page Count: 10
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Railway Workers and Their Unions: Origins of 1974 Indian Railways Strike
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Abstract

The railway strike of May 1974 has been dealt with as one of the events which precipitated the Emergency of the following year. The government itself branded the strike as a 'political strike' and used it as a justification for the declaration of Emergency. Such analyses, however, are indicative of an attitude which sees little importance in workers' own motivations and which sees 'politics' as the preserve of the powerful. This paper seeks to show that to understand the events of May 1974 one must regard the railway workers not as objects of a political game but as conscious agents of their own interests. Although its political implications must be understood, the origins of the railway strike must be located within the railway workers' movement and in the affairs of the workers themselves. It is argued, firstly, that the strike was the result of grievances that had built up over two decades and, secondly, that the grievances had been poorly addressed because of the nature of the trade union movement in the railways. The paper concludes that the developments which led to the railway strike exemplify the predicament of the whole labour movement in India.

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