The Central Working Committee of the All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) opposed steps being taken for privatization of Indian Railways, at a meeting held at AILRSA Bhawan, Ghaziabad on June 23, 2019.
In a press note issued on the occasion, the General Secretary of AILRSA, M.N.Prasad exposed the reality of the 11 point action plan, which the Ministry of Railways proposes to implement within 100 days. Its aim is clearly to further unbundle and hand over for privatization various services of the Indian Railways.
According to the action plan, passenger trains will be given over for private operation. Within 100 days, 2 passenger trains will be offered on lease to IRCTC (a corporation under railway board for providing ticketing and on-board services). These trains will run on the important routes like Golden Quadrilateral and Diagonals connecting major cities. The routes proposed for private passenger trains are the profit-making routes of Indian railways, such as Rajdhani and Shatabdi express trains. This is clearly a precedent to handing over passenger trains on profit-making routes to private operators, who will then loot the public for maximizing their profits. Rs. 13490 crore has been earmarked for improvement of the two routes proposed for privatization. This is being done at a time when the Railways management claims that it is running into heavy losses and has no funds for improvement in the existing railway services, maintenance of infrastructure, etc.
A second proposal is to hike railway fares and reduce special subsidized fares that the Railways now gives for Senior Citizens, students, differently abled persons, war veterans, etc. The Railways plans to carry out a “give up subsidy” propaganda campaign through the print, visual and social media, with the help of private agencies. This is clearly an abdication of the government’s responsibility to provide affordable and safe train travel services to the masses of people. It is a move that will adversely affect the working masses and enhance the profits of the private operators who will take over the running of the trains.
Another proposal in the Action Plan is the corporatisation of the production units of Indian Railways, including the associated workshops. These are proposed to be ‘hived off’ to the ‘Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company’. This is nothing but an attempt to hand over and outsource production to private companies. Precious resources of the Indian Railways will thus be handed over to the private capitalist houses to make maximum profits, greatly intensifying the loot of the working people and undermining the manufacturing capacity and self-reliance of the Railways.
The Press Note points out that all the central trade unions have been consistently opposing privatisation of the public sector undertakings. But despite this opposition, the government has already declared privatisation of 46 PSUs. Proposals made by the railway employees, for safety augmentation have also been consistently ignored by the government.
The AILRSA Central Working Committee meeting strongly condemned the Action Plan of the Railway Ministry and called upon all Zonal Committees to mobilise the railway workers in mass actions against the government’s plan.