Before lockdown was imposed in March 2020, I travelled by the Mumbai local trains nearly every day. The cheap, reliable and safe railway service allowed me to go to college and to move independently as a young woman. I spent approximately Rs. 4 per day on the ticket due to the subsidised price of the service. On the other hand, using the privately run Mumbai metro would have cost me more than Rs. 45 per day. We can see a similar situation in the rest of India where tickets for long-distance private trains cost as much as flight tickets. Once railways are completely privatised, crores of people who depend on the service, especially students and young women like me, would no longer be able to afford it.
Parts 4 and 5 of the “Privatisation of Railways” series tell us that the privatisation of this essential service will lead to hikes in fares, introduction of dynamic prices, closure of non-profitable routes and serious deterioration of maintenance and safety. The articles clearly and concisely describe the history of railway privatisation in countries like Britain, Japan and Argentina. We see that the same playbook is followed everywhere: the ready-made railway infrastructure built with the money of the people and the efforts of generations of workers is sold to private players for next to nothing. Even though the railways are built by the people of the country, they are used by a minority of capitalists to extract profit. If profit can no longer be made, the capitalists are free to close certain routes or make the government take over the operations and compensate for the losses, as can be seen from the examples of Britain, Brazil and Switzerland. We must learn from the experience of these countries. At the same time, we must take inspiration from the progress made in the Soviet Union, where people’s rule led to the creation of the largest railway network in the world.
Workers of the Indian Railways have united to fight against the anti-people effort of the ruling class to privatise railways. As a consumer of the service, I have been supporting the workers’ movement in every way possible. I urge all readers to join this struggle which is not only against privatisation but also against capitalism. We shall fight and we shall win!