On Wednesday, the Ministry of Railways has taken the first step towards privatisation by inviting Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to private players for the operation of passenger train services.
At least 151 modern trains or rakes will be introduced and 109 pairs of routes will be planned out for private train operations. Each train will have a minimum of 16 coaches, said the Indian Railways in a press statement on Wednesday.
Perhaps its a good time to remind the Railway minister Piyush Goyal his words in the Upper House in November 2019. He had said- “The Indian Railways is and always continues to be the property of India and people of India,”.
Indian Railways: Connecting people
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Indian Railways is one of the lifelines of the country. The majority of the population still depends on it for their daily commute and for most of its migrant working population it is the only affordable means to connect with their families in their faraway home towns.
It is also the one that is being systematically broken up and privatised stealthily by the Government of India.
Indian railways are the largest public enterprise and the largest employer in the country. Indian Railways carries more than 810 crore passengers every year. Its 67,000 kilometers of routes connect the remotest parts of the country to each other. It is the only affordable means of transport for crores of people between their villages and cities of work.
It is a mammoth enterprise run by 17 lakh contract workers. The Privatisation drive directly threatens the well- being and livelihood of lakhs of rail workers as well as crores of people who regularly use its services.
Modi Government: Disinvestment Regime
Modi government has made its intention clear from the beginning that when it says reforms it means sale or disinvestment of private sector undertakings (PSUs). It started with unsuccessful attempts to sell Air India, then several attempts to disinvest other PSUs through the “Ease of Doing Business” narrative.
There are 339 public sector enterprises in India and often at the receiving end of the argument that they will perform better if they were privatised. Narendra Modi government has been using the COVID crisis to merge or privatise many of these and expose them to private competition. modi