Presentation of Shri L. N. Pathak, General Secretary, Modern Coach Factory (M.C.F.) Men’s Union, Rae Bareilly, U.P. and Zonal Secretary, All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF), at the monthly meeting of All India Forum Against Privatisation (AIFAP) on 3 October, 2021.
Shri Pathak said that what the Sanyal committee has recently proposed is a matter of great concern and agitation since the plan encompasses many proposals covering production units, schools and hospitals currently managed by Indian railways. Giving example of the MCF Rai Bareilly he explained as to how in the current educational year 2021-22 itself, 77 children of railway employees working in MCF did not get admission to the 1st standard of the Central school in MCF premises due to inadequate seats. There is no other school in the vicinity with the nearest other school at a distance of more than 6 kms with no public conveyance available and those schools have no school buses.
He explained that the topmost leadership of the AIRF has taken up the issue right up to the Railway Board but nothing has been done. When there is already shortage of schools for employees’ children, now the Sanyal committee is talking about handing over the schools to Central school and wherever Central school do not exist to hand over to State government schools. If this is done then good quality education will not be available for children of railway employees or if available it will be very expensive in reputed private schools wherever available.
Similar is the issue of railway hospitals. Due to typical geographical location of Indian Railway network and railway stations spread across length and breadth of the country even in the remotest areas like desert, hills and near sea shore, providing good medical facilities is extremely important as a basic need. Currently in many Zonal and Divisional head-quarters and also at certain junctions some hospital/health units are available. But the facility is quite inadequate with long queues of patients. In many hospitals pathological testing facilities, ultrasound testing, MRI, CT scan etc. are not available. Indian Railways stopped recruiting specialists to conduct such tests saying that services of specialists in nearby areas from private hospitals under cashless scheme can be utilised. But railway employees, especially retired employees, know how difficult it is to get such services. There is thus a need to actually augment the current healthcare facilities. Instead of that Sanyal committee report is recommending that such hospitals may be handed over to state government hospitals.
AIRF had recommended to the Railway Ministry to demolish some of the dilapidated railway colonies which are very old and hence cannot be repaired and instead replace them with new gated apartments with security. But Sanyal committee is instead recommending to hand over the valuable land (in the heart of the cities) of these colonies to private parties under the name of monetisation of railway assets.
AIRF is strongly opposed to all these recommendations given by the Sanyal committee, he clarified. Giving the example of Habibganj station which was handed over for development to a private company, he mentioned that though it did not result in reduction of railway employees but led to expensive services for passengers and left no space for vendors and stall selling tea and snacks. And hence in the interests of railway passengers, they are opposed to handing over of stations to private parties.
He pointed out as to how government of India released many documents praising the contribution of defence production units, but suddenly carried out corporatisation of defence production units.
We must be wary of the government and must forge a solid unity across all public sector and government enterprises so that we can prevent such moves. He said that we must not have only one plan, but be ready with the strategic plan B and even the plan C so that we can effectively resist such attacks. He clarified that in the AIRF working committee meeting on 11th and 12th October they will be working out such plans.
He clarified that the work to strengthen NCCRS in Indian Railways must be speeded up which he could not pay full attention to due to some illness in his family. However, he promised that he will now do whatever is necessary to strengthen the NCCRS.
In the end he expressed solidarity with all those fighting against the attack of Monetisation, Corporatisation and Privatisation.