The threat of a general strike in the Railways today appeared to be looming large with a majority of its employees favouring it to demand scrapping of new pension scheme and jobs for wards of those who took VRS, among other issues.
The nation-wide strike could be before the Lok Sabha polls to give the government enough time to act on their demands before the Model Code of Conduct comes into force.
"If the government and Railway Ministry do not fulfil our main demands, we will have no option but to declare strike during February-March next year," All-India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) General Secretary Shiv Gopal Mishra said.
If the AIRF goes ahead with the plan, it will be a major strike in Railways after 1974.
Mishra said more than 96 per cent railwaymen of the AIRF had cast their votes in favour of the strike to press for their 36-point charter of demands.
AIRF had conducted 'strike ballot' on December 20 and 21 across the country to ascertain the opinions of its members to take a final call on the issue of going on strike.
'Strike ballot', mandatory for the union before declaring a strike, is a secret ballot conducted among members to determine whether to launch such a protest.
Out of 10.5 lakh members of AIRF, 8,09,303 members voted. 96 per cent of them backed the strike. Currently, Railways has about 14 lakh employees.
"We will be writing to the Railway Ministry about the outcome of the strike ballot. It is a massive mandate for strike as younger employees are showing more enthusiasm to go ahead with the stir," Mishra said.
However, he said the federation will fulfil all the criteria mandatory for declaring the strike. It would cost about Rs 800 crore if the movement of trains including freight comes to halt for a day.
About the possible date for the strike, he said, "It will be most probably in February-March next year as we have to keep in mind the code of conduct coming into effect before the impending general elections next year.