Friday, September 11, 2020

On 11 Sept 2020. 

Dear Comrades, 

Two private British Companies namely the East Indian Railway Company and the Great Indian Peninsular Railway(GIPR) Company founded in London in 1845 started the construction of the Indian Railways. Railways were introduced in India on 16th April 1853. 

Later Railways were nationalised by British Government to have an efficient control of National Transport system. The first Railway budget was presented in 1925. The first Railway Workshop was established at Jamshedpur in 1862. 

After that many production units like Chitharanjan Locomotive Works, Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi, Diesel Loco Modernisation Works, Pattiala, Integral Coach Factory, Perambur, Rail Coach Factory Kapurthala, Rail Wheel Factory Yelahanka etc were established. 

After Independence different railways merged and Railway Board and different Zonal Railways organised. 

Indian railway is the biggest public sector entity. It has huge asset, infrastructure and land. Indian railway is 2nd biggest land lord in the country. There has been a persistent effort to privatize and outsource its various activities. 

The Government of India adopted neo-liberal economic policy in 1991 during UPA Government. Shortly called as LPG policies – Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation. 

It has adopted new industrial policy to pave the way for disinvestment and privatization. Prakash Tandon committee recommend implementation of neo liberal economic policy in Indian railways. Later Rakesh Mohan was appointed to recommend in regard to implementation of the recommendations of Prakash Tandon committee. 

Rakesh Mohan Committee recommended to bifurcate railways on the basis of core and noncore activities. According to him the operation of passenger and freight traffic is the only core activity. The operation of train services should remain with the railways and other non core activities i.e manufacturing of rolling stock, workshop, hospitals and educational institutions, all this should be separated from railways and gradually be privatized. 

Afterwards Modi Government came to power. Government started its program of diluting public-sector status of Indian Railways more vigorously and aggressively. In order to implement neoliberal economic policy in the railways Bibek Debroy committee was constituted. The committee`s main recommendation are as follows. 

The private sector will be allowed to run both passengers and freight train on the track laid down by the Government on the rate of fair and freight which will be decided by them. Railway Regulatory Authority (RRA)will be formed to regulate freight and fare; the production units and workshops will be handed over to private sector and Indian railway manufacturing company will be created and operate independent of Indian railways. Maintenance will be handed over to the contractor. The present structure of railways will be restructured/ fragmented into number of independent companies. 

Railway board will be restructured. Already CRB is renamed as CEO and introducing Member Infrastructure, Member Traction and Rolling Stock, Member Operations and Business Development and Member Finance. From the existing Railway Board 3 posts are surrendered. 

The social obligation of the railways will be dispensed with. The number of employees will be substantially reduced. The management and running of suburban services will be handed over to concerned state Government. Kolkata Metro rail will be separated from Indian railways. 

In place of present pension system long term bullet bond or Zero coupon bond will be introduced. Entire catering service will be privatized. This committee also recommended that the work of protection of railway property and security of railway passengers will be handed over to private security agency. 

The passenger and freight charges will, be decided on the basis of cost. At present, 47 % of passenger fares being subsidised. There will be no subsidy. Hence, the passenger fares will almost be doubled. 

In addition, there will be no concessions for senior citizens, children, physically handicapped, cancer patients, students etc like now. Passes will not be allowed. Indian Railways, till now an affordable mode of transport for the poor and toiling people, will no more be so. The passenger fares in Indian Railways will be increased to provide a ‘level playing field’ for the corporates so that they can compete with the Indian Railways and earn profits. 

Private players can also use the present tracks laid with public money, without making any extra investment. They have to pay only access charge. The concept of subsidising traffic of essential commodities will also be removed. 

Private players cannot be expected to provide subsidy and they will be least bothered about the safety they are worried only about PROFIT. 

Whether the entry of private sector will facilitate growth? Or whether this will severely hamper the expansion of Railway network? 

We have the experience of British railways after privatization. After privatization of British Railways, Government had no control over freight and passenger fare and also the railway services had been in mess. 

Once former British Prime Minister Tony Blair commented “If you want to see the hell, you travel in British Railways”. The people demanded re nationalization of Railways. Now British Railways has been converted to a corporation. 

In many countries railways are under Government Control. They are much better than where the railways have been privatized. 

The railways play an important role in regard to development of a nation; in respect of growth in economic activities and industrialization, Indian railways is the lifeline for country. More than 2 crore people daily travel in railways. 80% of the passengers travel in sleeper class. They belong to poor and lower middle class section of the people. They are the agriculture labourer, migrant workers and other poor section of people. 

If corporate houses are allowed to run the trains and if the Government do not have any control over the passenger fair, substantial percentage of people belonging to this section will not be able to travel by the train. 

If the Government do not have control over rate of freight and if it is left to Independent railway tariff authority, this will result in increase of freight rates increasing further the burden on industries and common people. The expansion of railway network will be affected. There are areas which are not still connected by railways and this areas will be deprived of railway facilities 

Indian Railways thus must remain under Govt control, if consistent modernization and expansion is to be ensured for the benefit of the people and national economy. Privatisation of railways will lead to this most essential services be made the easy route for profit making by private corporate, both domestic and foreign, and the people and national economy will suffer. 

Due to pandemic covid 19 the entire country is paralised and behind this pandemic the Government started implementing its hidden agendas considering the restrictions. By organising the webinar AILRSA is planning to educate our cadres about the threat of privatisation. 

Different leaders are presenting their views before you and there will be healthy discussion. 

I declare that the webinar is inaugurated. 

Paster Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) - was a prominent Lutharan Paster in Germany. 

Poem by Niomoller: 

“First they came for the Socialists, 

and I did not speak out- 

Because I was not a Socialist. 

Then they came for the trade unionists, 

and I did not speak out- 

Because I was not a trade unionist. 

Then they came out for the Jews, 

and I did not speak out- 

Because I was not a Jew. 

Then they came for me- 

and there was no one left to speak for me.” 


Sunish C, Asst Secretary General,AILRSA. 

11.09.2020 





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