The plan of the ruling class to privatise Indian Railways is running full steam ahead. The Central government has taken advantage of the Corona pandemic to implement this program on fast track. The repeated promises of successive prime ministers that Indian Railways will never be privatised stand nakedly exposed as blatant lies.
The Railway Minister has given a new name to privatisation. He has called it “asset monetisation”. The minister explained that this means handing over the most profitable routes to private parties, redevelopment of stations through so called public private partnership, and other ways for private profits to be reaped out of public assets.
The raiways are indeed sitting on colossal assets. These assets belong to the whole of society. To hand over these assets to private parties is anti-national. The government has no right to hand over these assets to Indian or foreign capitalist monopolies — no matter under what name and with what justification this is carried out.
The railways issued instructions in November 2020 to all the railway zones to freeze all fresh recruitment and surrender 50% of all vacancies.
A massive onslaught is taking place on Indian Railways. It is at the same time an onslaught on the whole of society.
The international experience of rail privatization shows that various claims of benefits of privatisation for users and for society are false. On the contrary, workers suffered immensely and users were much worse off after privatisation. Privatisation has led to complete neglect of safety, because capitalists do not want to invest in trained work force or ensure safety measures in their drive for maximum profits.
Wherever railways have been privatized, the state funded the new capitalist owners through massive handouts, to ensure them guaranteed maximum profits. The so called public private partnership has meant that losses are borne by the people, while profits are made by the capitalists.
Working people need access to safe and affordable rail travel. Handing this service over to the capitalists will ensure criminal neglect of this need.
Rail privatisation is anti-social and anti-national. The Indian bourgeoisie is pursuing this anti-national course uncaring for the consequences for society. Rail workers and the broad masses of people of our country cannot allow it to pursue this course.
Rail workers have taken up the challenge. They have declared that they will not accept privatisation under any name. They will wage a united struggle, cutting across all party and union affiliations.
Rail workers have taken a decisive step to strengthen their unity to oppose privatisation of the Indian Railways. They have reconstituted the National Coordination Committee of Railwaymen’s Struggle (NCCRS). All India leaders of 16 major federations, unions and category-wise associations – All India Railwaymen’s Federation, National Federation of Indian Railwaymen, Bharatiya Rail Mazdoor Sangh, All India Loco Running Staff Association, All India Guards Council, All India Station Masters Association, All India Train Controllers Association, Indian Railway Ticket Checking Staff Organisation, Indian Railway Signal and Telecommunications Maintainers Union, All India Track Maintainers Union, All India Railwaymen’s Confederation, Indian Railway Loco Running Men’s Organisation, Railway Karmachari Track Maintainer’s Association, Dakshin Railway Employees Union, Indian Railway Technical Supervisors Association, All India SC & ST Railway Employees Association – as well as the Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) have come together under one banner of struggle. It was under the banner of the NCCRS that rail workers carried out the historic railway strike in 1974.
The federations and unions of rail workers, together with the Kamgar Ekta Committee have been carrying out a massive sustained campaign amongst rail workers, as well as broad masses of people to build the unity of the people against rail privatisation. Many passengers’ associations have joined the common struggle. This will further strengthen the campaign against privatization.
It is both necessary and possible to halt the program of rail privatisation. The struggle of rail workers against privatisation enjoys the support of the broad masses of people of our country.
As the struggle against privatisation mounts, rail workers and their unions must preserve and strengthen their unity, regardless of party or union affiliation. We must not allow political parties of the capitalist class, whether Congress, BJP or any other, to sow discord amongst us and break our unity.
All parties of the ruling capitalist class are committed to the program of rail privatisation. Rail workers do not want to struggle and sacrifice in order to replace one party of the capitalist class in government with another party of the capitalist class which will implement the same program of privatisation.
The struggle against the privatisation of Indian Railways is a struggle against the ruling capitalist class, headed by the monopoly capitalist houses. The program of privatisation is a program of the capitalist class. Rail workers cannot afford to let their struggle be hijacked by this or that party of the ruling class.
As workers step up the struggle against privatization, we must keep as our strategic aim the replacement of the rule of the bourgeoisie with the rule of workers and peasants. Then we will be able to reorient the economy from being geared to fulfil monopoly capitalist greed to being geared to fulfilling human needs.