Needless expenditure and politicisation by successive ministers, neo-liberal policies and privatisation have led the Indian Railways to a State of crisis, Basudeb Acharia, MP for Bankura in West Bengal and former Lok Sabha Chairman of the Committee on Railways, said here on Thursday.

He was speaking at the divisional conference of the Dakshin Railway Employees’ Union (DREU), Palakkad Division, at the Town Hall. Mr. Acharia, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said: “Funds of the Railways have been exhausted. This is because under the former Minister for Railways Mamatha Bannerjee, Rs. 4,000 crore has been spent on various committees that served no purpose. Committees such as heritage, culture, public amenities were filled with people whom she favoured. She also announced a series of projects for West Bengal, some of them unnecessary, before elections in that State to boost her chances of getting elected. Money for advertisements in the media for these projects came from the Railways fund.”
He alleged that while Ms. Bannerjee and other previous Railway Ministers had money to spend on their constituency and publicity, they had no money to offer to “under-paid” staff in the department.
The crisis, Mr. Acharia said, started by privatising ancillary functions of the Railways, which was a direct result of liberation policies launched in the 1990s.
“Instead of strengthening the Railways’ production units, the Ministry is now handing out everything under private-public partnership, leaving only the role of delivering passengers and goods to the Railways,” Mr. Acharia said.
He said that privatisation and outsourcing had led to many vacancies, and with the Ministry having no money to appoint people, the efficiency of the department had affected. “This in turn affects the safety of passengers travelling by train,” he added.
Apart from asking the Union Government to increase the budgetary support to the Railways, Mr. Acharia called for an end to “anti-labour” liberalisation policies. “This is where unions such as DREU become important, as they stand for workers’ rights,” he said.
Mathew Syriac P., divisional secretary, DREU, Palakkad, spoke.
The DREU members took out a procession from the Town Hall to Mangalore Central Railway Station. Their main demand was filling 2.8 lakh vacancies in the Railways.
The other demands included eight-hour shift for the staff instead of the 12-hour shift, modernisation of the Mangalore Central Station and Mangalore Junction Station, Mr. Syriac said.

  • ‘Rs. 4,000 cr. spent during Mamata’s time has gone waste’
  • ‘Privatisation and outsourcing have created many vacancies’