The government is making the citizens of this country into slaves of the capitalists. We should unite to end this disease. – Comrade Vivek Nair, Assistant General Secretary, NRMU
Salient points of the speech of Comrade Vivek Nair, Assistant General Secretary, National Railway Mazdoor Union (NRMU) at the AIFAP monthly meeting 7 November 2021
Railway privatisation was started in the 1990s. Different names – outsourcing, corporatisation, etc. – have been used and finally they have come to outright privatisation. It did not matter which party formed the government. They all have implemented the same agenda. We have opposed this.
Within 40 days of BJP coming into power in May 2014, a Debroy committee was formed. This committee was asked to make a plan for the re-structuring of railways. The plan was made in a way that it took care of the capitalist needs and the government started working on its implementation as soon as it was possible for them. The government organised a huge meet in Haryana where it tried to explain that the privatisation of railways is beneficial for the citizens of this country. But our unions rejected the proposal. As soon as the Debroy committee came up with the re-structuring plan, the government started privatising the production units, workshops etc, then private trains started operating on profitable routes. The private players have kept the dynamic rates on these routes.
I do agree that funds are required to maintain the infrastructure of the railways but privatisation is not the way. The private players are only going to bother about their profits and not about the service the railway provides to the thousands of poor people. Different federations and unions of railways are trying to come together to fight against privatisation drive of the government.
Railways have a huge asset of roughly 5 lakhs hectares of land, 2,90,000 coaches. 2 crore people travel every day on Indian Railways from one part of the country to another.
Rail workers have played a huge role in the pandemic by transferring the medical equipment from one place to another, railway coaches were converted into isolation wards etc. Under the scheme of National monetisation, 400 stations are handed over to the private players in the name of modernisation.
Now 400 stations are being given to private players for “modernisation”. Government has said they will monetise tangible and non-tangible railway assets. Vertical and horizontal land will be monetised. The platform ticket rates, train fares will all be decided by these private players who will buy the railways. Private goods trains will be run on the dedicated freight corridors being built at a huge cost using people’s money. All profitable routes will be taken by private players. These trains will have AC coaches, which common people will not be able to afford. They can travel if they can afford the rates. The government considers railways, healthcare, education all as businesses and not services and as it is not their business, so they should be sold.
Over Rs 1,52,000 crore of railway assets (26% of entire monetisation plan) will be monetised. Gross budgetary support of Rs 70,000 crores was to be provided by the government to railways but later, they only gave Rs 26,000 crores. So even budgetary allocation is not done. Pension fund appropriation not done although pension is given from railway revenue. Workers work all their life and the government is planning to end their social security. Rs 48,000 crores of pension fund are not released by the government.
The government is selling off a huge sector which generates so much employment. There was a time when we had 20 lakh rail employees and now, we just have 12 lakhs. Outsourcing of employees is done and with that the exploitation also increases. It is going to be extremely difficult for young generations to find the jobs.
The government is making the citizens of this country into slaves of the capitalists. I agree with other comrades that the government does all that it can to break the unity of the people. Misleading attitude that privatisation is good has been spread among workers.
AIFAP is giving all a platform, which is good. Privatisation and its effects on workers and people, loss of security, has created the need for our unity. We should unite to end this disease.