IFTU Call for Protest against Privatization of Rail Routes


For the BJP-led government at the centre the pandemic seems to have come in handy to foist a series of anti-people policies, the latest being the privatization of rail routes. The government seems to believe that the crisis should not be wasted and should be put to use for intensifying the process of  economic reforms that are distinctly anti-worker and anti-people.

It has declared that some 109 rail routes would be handed over to private players under whom 151 trains will be operating. It has identified 12 profit-making clusters for the purpose and will come into force from 2023. Long distance passenger trains are sought to be shut down. Private companies can fix the passenger fare for the next 35 years. Handing over some rail routes to private companies would obviously result in high fares and the various concessions available at present will be done away with. The first private train, the Tejas that runs between Delhi-Lucknow, charges 1900Rs for the AC Chair car while the Shatabdi Express charges 900Rs for the same and there is no difference in duration of the travel. Privatisation of rail routes would result in the denial of access to train travel by the poor and even the middle classes. It is said that privatization of some routes will generate employment which is absolutely baseless as there are 3 lakh vacant posts that would not be filled due to privatization. On 16th October,2019 the Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal declared  that “there is no question of privatization of Indian Railways” till BJP is in power. But what we witness is contrary to this proclamation.

Privatisation of certain select routes has not come all of a sudden. It is a step in the series of measures that the government has been taking to drive the railways towards privatization. The Bibek Debroy Committee report submitted to the government in 2015 recommended privatization. Corporatisation of seven production units of the railways and 100% opening up to FDI are nothing but privatizing the largest public sector transporter in the world. The IRCTC formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, was to oversee the privatization of certain services in rail transport.

Whenever a PSU was subjected to privatization or part privatization the story doled out was that it was running in losses and therefore the only alternative was to hand it over to private players. This story has been proved to be false as many profit-making units were put under the axe of privatization. In the period of the pandemic the government has openly declared that it will privatise all non-strategic PSUs irrespective of its status as profit-making or otherwise. Large profitable companies like the BPCL, SAIL, Shipping Corporation of India are subjected to privatization. The Finance Minister openly announced in May while speaking on the financial package that all non-strategic PSUs will be privatized and all strategic PSUs excepting four will be privatized. Maharatnas, Navaratnas will all be gone into the hands of private players.

The National Committee strongly opposes the privatization of 109 rail routes and feels that this step is going to further widen the rich-poor divide. It calls upon the working class to resist the drive towards privatizing public transport .It calls its units to organize protests on 24 July.

Dr. Aparna                                                                                                                                    Pradeep
President                                                                                                                                 General Secretary