Centre's privatisation spree sends wrong signal
Opportune movement and time are important for those in power to scheme their ways through the maze of confusion prevailing in the country due to some circumstances.
Opportune movement and time are important for those in power to scheme their ways through the maze of confusion prevailing in the country due to some circumstances. Even as the country sits on the precipice of corona on the one hand and, on the other, an uncertain economic future owing to lockdown, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the helm is silently pushing its agenda of privatisation with alacrity.
After allowing Foreign Direct Investment to grow, it made its move to privatise the coal sector leading to huge protests. And now comes its move to privatise the railways. Though this has been on cards since long, the announcement which has come now to privatise the operations of 109 trains in the country. The government has proposed that except for the driver and the guard, all other employees will be private ones. All this is being done in the name of offering world class service to the passengers.
These trains divided into 12 clusters on the basis of origin and destination are expected to give the government Rs 30,000 crore, it is obvious that the private players who wade into its operations would certainly target to make many more thousands of crores. The concerns raised by the Left parties are genuine in this regard. The fears raised by them should be properly addressed by the government. Their criticism that the BJP-led Modi government is determined to hand over all the national assets and resources to the private corporates sounds rational as no sector of the economy and industry is spared by the Centre.
Coal mines, banks, defence, oil, insurance, electricity, telecom, space and atomic energy all are being privatised by the Modi regime. The latest target of privatisation is the Indian Railways. The BJP government has already decided to corporatise the production units under the Railways and to close down the printing presses of the Railways. The government has further appointed an Empowered Group of Secretaries for handing over passenger trains and railway stations to private sector. Accordingly, on July 1, 2020, the Ministry of Railways has announced the following decisions:
Operation of 109 trains through private participation, private sector investment of Rs 30,000 crore and fixing of 109 origin destination fares (with 12 clusters across the Indian Railways network). The concession period for the project will be 35 years and that only the driver and the guard will be railway employees and all other employees will be from private operators. Any private entity investing Rs 30,000 crore will expect a huge profit from its investment resulting in huge increase in the railway ticket fare. Will the government have a say in it? The prices one is paying for Tatkal or surge fares would become the new normal in the hands of the private players. Railways are for serving the people of the country. Already three lakh posts in Railways are lying vacant. These decisions of operating 109 trains through private agencies will take away the dream of the Indian youth including those who belong to the socially and economically downtrodden sections to get a Railway job.