If the government is thinking of privatising railways, this won’t be allowed to happen. If needed, there will be a big struggle in the country. We will fight to save railways; we have done this before and will continue to do. We are trying to reach the common masses.
Summary of the speech by Shri Shiv Gopal Mishra, General Secretary, All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) and Convenor, National Coordination Committee of Railwaymen’s Struggle (NCCRS) at the All India Meeting organised by AIFAP on 21 November 2021 on “Mobilise Consumers/Users and Other People to Participate in the Movement Against Privatisation”
When UPA government was in power, the Yojana Aayog of the time wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Railway Board asking why IR is not privatised when railways all over the world are privatised.
As far as economic policies are concerned, both the big parties of the country are the same. UPA and NDA have the same economic policies. AIRF was formed in 1920 and we were involved in struggle against the British. After Independence also we have been involved in many struggles and we have always opposed such policies. The government has made many announcements—the PM has travelled to many countries announcing that our railway is on sale and you people (foreign players) should come to our country to operate these. The government has tried but has not been successful because railway workers have been opposing privatisation.
AIRF has started the “Save Country Save Railway” campaign. We didn’t want only railway workers to fight and we are involving consumers in the struggle. We are involving farmers, workers, teachers, journalists, etc. We have formed Rail Bachao Desh Bachao samitis at many stations. We have not been completely successful yet. But we hope to reach more by 31st December 2021. I invite all participants of today’s meeting to join our campaign.
During the pandemic, with virtual and some physical meetings, we have tried our best to save the railways. It was only the public sector that was working during the pandemic. Private sector was nowhere to be seen. When the nation was shut down, railway workers ensured the supply of essential commodities. If we hadn’t done this, more people would have died due to starvation. Public hospitals and other public services worked during this time. But the government tried to take advantage of this opportunity. They ran 100 luxury trains, but nobody used these services.
Under the National Monetisation Pipeline, the Finance Minister has announced that railway assets worth more than Rs. 1 lakh crore will be sold including stadiums, colonies, etc. We vehemently opposed this announcement. We worked to bring recognised, unrecognised, all unions on one platform. We have formed the NCCRS with other unions – NFIR, ALRSA, AIGC, AISMA, AITCA, AIRTU, IRTSA, etc. Our aim is to oppose the policies of the government’ and take direct action when necessary. Our aim is to save Indian Railways because Indian Railways is a public asset. There is no mode of transport in the country that can provide such cheap and safe service. We are not a commercial enterprise. If the government is thinking of privatising railways, this won’t be allowed to happen. If needed, there will be a big struggle in the country. We will fight to save railways; we have done this before and will continue to do.
We are trying to reach the common masses. We have reached out to central trade unions. People ask why railway workers don’t participate in these strikes of the central trade union – it is not possible for rail workers to do an 8-hour strike. We have told central trade unions that if we want to save the public sector, we have to strike. Through Save Country Save Railway, NCCRS, etc. we are trying to organise a people’s struggle – a jan andolan.
Today the attack is on us, while tomorrow it will be on someone else. But as Shailendra Dubey (AIPEF) knows, if people of the public sector come together to save electricity, banks, LIC, port and docks, then AIRF will join the struggle. If we want to win, we have to unite. We have to make a joint platform where we can oppose privatisation, corporatisation, monetisation and so on and save the public sector.