Thousands of railway workers took to the streets across the country during the week 13th-18th September 2021. They were protesting against the government’s decision to privatise various assets of the Indian Railways in the name of “monetising” these assets.
Assets belonging to the Indian Railways form 25 percent of the public assets that the government plans to “monetise”, as part of the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) announced on 23rd August 2021. These include 400 railway stations, 90 passenger trains, the 741 km long Konkan Railways, railway stadiums and railway colonies.
Workers of railways and other public sector enterprises are not deceived by this new name for privatisation. They can see very clearly 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. These are assets that belong to the people, built with the sweat of lakhs of workers. Now their very homes are under threat as the NMP includes railway colonies.
The railway workers are facing a massive onslaught and the workers are fighting tooth and nail against this anti-social and anti-national attack by the ruling class. Already rail workers had declared that they will not accept privatisation under any name. They will wage a united struggle, cutting across all party and union affiliations. The country-wide protests in the week of 13th-18th September reflects this.
Protest marches were taken out by the Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh in Thane on 16th September. On the same day, the Mazdoor Union of the Rashtriya Coach Factory (RCF) Kapurthala organised a rally at the factory gate; union activists had been contacting workers across departments. The All-India Railway Men’s Federation (AIRF)’s Central Railway Employees Union organised protests at various stations in Madhya Pradesh. Workers of the Southern Railway Mazdoor Union staged a demonstration against the Centre’s move to monetise public sector units at Madurai, Tamilnadu on 15th September.
Everywhere, the protesting workers condemned the move to sell the public sector units that were built with the sweat of the citizens in the last 75 years. Even iconic trains like the Niligiri mountain train and Himalayan Toy train have been earmarked to be given away. The Toy train runs from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, and has been a very integral part of the lives of the people of Darjeeling. In Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, workers of the Southern Railway Mazdoor Union staged a demonstration on 15th September against the Centre’s move to monetise public sector units.
It is both necessary and possible to halt the program of rail 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. It must be fought unitedly. Rail workers and their unions must preserve and strengthen their unity, regardless of party or union affiliation.