Thursday, June 27, 2019

All India Loco Running Staff Association opposes the privatisation measures incorporated in the 100 days Action Plan proposed by the Ministry of Railways with the approval of the Minister for Railways. The Railway Board vide letter dated 18.06.2019 has directed that immediate action to be taken to implement the Action Plan by 31st August 2019. 

The eleven-point action plan is in the direction of unbundling of railways and restructuring recommended by Bibek Deb Roy committee with a changed nomenclature that used by Deb Roy committee. 

The Action Plan proposes for operating private passenger trains. Within 100 days 2 passenger trains will be offered to IRCTC which is a corporation under railway board which would provide ticketing and on-board services. These trains will run on the important routes like Golden Quadrilateral and Diagonals and connecting major cities. In fact, it is a conspiracy. Being IRCTC is a corporation under the same management of Railway board, the terms and conditions of lease will be liberal and later the same terms and condition will be adopted as a precedence allowing the private operators to loot the people as well as Indian railways. It may be noted that the routes proposed for private passenger trains are the profit-making routes of Indian railways. The proposal of spending an amount of Rs. 13490 Crores for improvement of the two routes proposed for privatisation is nothing but spending the public money for the benefit of private players, that too when the government is pleading paucity of fund for railway development. 

We saw similar abundancy in fund in earlier occasions for projects which are beneficial to corporates. In Kerala when the Vizhinjam port was handed over to Adani, the Khajana of surface transportation ministry got huge surplus to flood it for development of roads to the port. 

It is reported that the government wants to hand over the running of premier trains including the Rajdhani and Shatabdi express trains to private operators, for which tenders would be floated within four months. 

There is no doubt that all popular trains, superfast trains and express trains will follow the Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. 

Hiking Railway fares is also on the cards. The government wants to reduce the subsidies through a ‘Give it up’ campaign. This is a trump card played by the same Government to create an awareness against the subsidy on LPG, - there the poverty of rural women was projected. What will be the Mantras in case of Railways is yet to be seen. It is decided that Railway itself will propagate the campaign for ‘give up subsidy’ through Print, Visual and Social Media i.e., private agencies dealing the Public Relation activities, will under take the Railway Propaganda. It is also decided that the private agencies will give extra focus on visual Media, Face Book and Twitter. Bibek Deb Roy had criticised that cross subsidy for Passenger service from Goods revenue is the main hurdles for Private entry in train operation. In nut shell the Corporates will campaign against subsidy using Railway money for their benefits?! It is important to note that overwhelming majority of the railway passengers today belong to the poor and low-income sections. We are seeing 300 to 400 passengers travelling in general Coaches run continuously for two to three days. Railways are running Andyodaya trains having second class sitting coaches alone between stations 1500 to 2000 Kms away and they remain over crowded. Providing cheap and affordable travel is the Constitutional responsibility of the Government. Reducing subsidies and raising fares is nothing but a ploy to favour the private operators who would be operating the trains only for profits. The Government which came to power with the votes of the common people and the poor has, within less than a month, started imposing burdens on the common people, just to pay back their bosses, the big Corporates, domestic and foreign. The campaign against passenger fare subsidy is nothing but a fatal blow to the rural poor those who lost their lively hood due to agrarian crisis. Denial of cross subsidy prevent them moving to urban cities to retain their lives. 

Another proposal in the Action Plan is the corporatisation of the production units. The 7 production units including the associated workshops 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 the private players killing our public sector’s indigenous manufacturing capacity. The only difference with Deb Roy is that he suggested the name “Indian Railway Manufacturing Company” (IRMC) instead of “Rolling Stock Company.” Though all the units come under one company, all should function as individual profit centre. Definitely the CPC scale of pay and allowance, the status as Government employee may be lost for the company employees in future. 

The proposal to consult the trade unions appears to be only an eye wash. Till today, the Modi government, in its earlier avatar as well as since it returned to power, has been blatantly ignoring the voices of the trade unions on many issues. In fact all the central trade unions have been consistently opposing privatisation of the public sector undertakings. But this government has already declared privatisation of 46 PSUs despite this opposition. 

There are many proposals for safety augmentation. But it is the experience of the running staff that, the recommendations against the employees were implemented on a war-foot measure, but others will crawl at a snail’s pace. 

AILRSA Central Working Committee meeting held at AILRSA Bhawan, Ghaziabad on 23.06.2019 strongly condemn and demand to do away with the above proposal, the meeting also directed all Zonal Committees to mobilise the employees and to hold trade union action programs by gathering the support from all trade unions, rail users and general public to stop such disastrous measures. 

Ghaziabad,                                                                                                   (MN Prasad) 

23.06.2019                                                                                         Secretary General AILRSA. 


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