Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
The Indian Railways (IR) had drawn up a plan to privatise 300 railway stations by asking private developers to invest in the modernisation of stations and in return make profit by commercially developing rail property and land. The stations to be privatised included some of the country’s biggest including New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Ernakulam.
Private developers want IR to first invest in the modernisation of railway stations and then hand the modernised stations over to them for operation and commercial development of their assets. They want people’s money to be used in modernisation of station facilities and then pocket the profit through operation and commercial development.
Agreeing to their demand, the IR has already earmarked Rs 17,500 crore for the modernisation of 46 stations in the first phase. As per a railway official connected to the project, “The modality we have adopted is a hybrid PPP. We are now spending money in developing only the core station area. Once that portion is built in the next two-three years, we will invite bids from private players to maintain these stations and develop more real estate in the adjoining areas.”
The EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contracts have been awarded for six stations – Tirupati, Gaya, Udhna, Somnath, Ernakulam and Puri. For another 16 stations, bids have been received but the contracts have yet to be awarded. They are Lucknow, Muzaffarpur, Ghaziabad, Gandhi Nagar Jaipur, Gwalior, Dakaniya Talav, Kanyakumari, Kollam, Nellore, Bhubaneshwar, New Jalpaiguri, Kota, Udaipur City, Faridabad, Jammu Tawi and Jalandhar Cantt.
Tenders are expected to be issued for the remaining 24 stations by the end of August 2022. These include Delhi Cantt, Ludhiana, Nagpur, Rameswaram, Puducherry, Madurai, Katpadi, Bangalore Cantt, Secundrabad, Sabarmati, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Chennai Egmore, Ernakulam Town, Jaisalmer, Ranchi, Jodhpur, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Visakhapatnam, Surat, Yesvantpur, New Bhuj and Ajni (suburb of Nagpur).
Rail workers are asking why stations should be handed over to private players for earning profit after public money has been used to modernise them. This model of investment by railways and profit on investment by private players will ultimately make the IR sick. It seems that the model is being adopted to justify large scale privatisation of railways at a later date.
Rail workers need to expose such devious measures of the central government for which price will be paid both by passengers and workers.