All India Railwaymen's Federation

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All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF) is the largest trade union in the Indian Railways with a membership of 1.4 million. AIRF was the first union founded in Indian Railways in 1925.[1][2] It is affiliated with the socialist trade union center Hind Mazdoor Sabha.[3]

By the late 1940s, AIRF had begun to be dominated by socialists and communists. The union's President between 1947 and 1953 was the socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, while the future Communist Chief Minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu was Vice-President. Worried by this, the ruling Congress party formed its own railway wing, Indian National Railway Workers' Federation (INRWF) in 1948. In March 1949, AIRF was set to launch a strike but withdrew the strike notice after the government attempted conciliation. The communist wing of the union attempted to continue staging strikes. The government launched a crackdown. Troops were deployed, 7,000 workers were arrested and 2,000 were dismissed. Communist-linked unions and members were expelled from the union. In 1953, AIRF merged with INRWF to form the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen. This unity was short-lived and AIRF became independent again in 1955. Despite favouritism towards the Congress-aligned unions by the Indian Railways management, AIRF continued to maintain strong influence among Railway workers.[2] [4][5]

Past AIRF presidents include Peter Alvares (1968–73), George Fernandes (1973-76) and Priya Gupta (1976–79).[5]

In May 1974, AIRF President George Fernandes led a nationwide railway strike that was suppressed by the Government of India.[6]

In 2007, Indian Railways was ordered by courts to hold secret ballot elections for the first time to determine union representation in each of its seventeen zones. The court case was precipitated by the then BJP-led government's decision in 2002 to unilaterally grant recognition to its affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. The criteria for recognition in a zone was 35% of the votes polled or 30% of the total electorate in a given zone. Unions winning over 50% of the votes would become the only recognized union. The elections saw AIRF emerge as the largest union, winning recognition in sixteen zones, including becoming the sole recognized union in four. NFIR affiliated with INTUC won recognition in nine.[7][8] In the second elections held in 2013, AIRF again won recognition in sixteen zones, five as sole representative whereas NFIR won recognition in twelve.[9]

AIRF is led by President Rakhal Das Gupta and General Secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra.[3]


  1. ^ Vikas Dhoot (June 29, 2013). "Indian Railways headed for first indefinite strike in October". Economic Times..
  2. ^ a b Subba Rao, P (1997). "A perspective on human resource management in Indian Railways". In Venkataraman, CS; Varma, Anil (eds.). Challenge of Change: Industrial Relations in Indian Industry. Allied Publishers. p. 500. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "List of Federations". Hind Mazdoor Sabha. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  4. ^ Bandopadhyay, Sekhar (2009). Decolonization in South Asia: Meanings of Freedom in Post-independence West Bengal, 1947-52. Routledge. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Bear, Laura (2007). Lines of the Nation: Indian Railway Workers, Bureaucracy, and the Intimate Historical Self. Columbia University Press. p. 231. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  6. ^ "Looking back at anger". The Hindu. January 6, 2002. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  7. ^ Vikas Dhoot (December 6, 2007). "For first time, railwaymen vote to elect unions, derail Left". Indian Express. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  8. ^ Sudha Menon (November 13, 2007). "RAILWAY UNIONS GET READY FOR FIRST, CRITICAL ELECTIONS IN 154 YEARS". Livemint. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  9. ^ "Compilation of Results - SBE_2013" (PDF). AIRF. Retrieved July 16, 2017.