NEW DELHI: Reacting to the reported move by the Indian Railways to hand over some heritage trains to private and foreign operators, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) on Monday accused the NDA government of abdicating its responsibility and accountability with regard to safety and affordable fares.
Referring to media reports quoting Railway officials that the routes linking Kalka and Shimla, Siliguri and Darjeeling and the Nilgiri mountains with the plains, Neral and Matheran and the Kangra valley would be among the first to be handed over to private operators, including foreign companies, CITU president K Hemalata alleged that this was a precursor to the gradually private Indian Railways.
“As per reports, private companies, including the foreign ones, will not only run these trains but also maintain the lines and the stations and also own the station on these lines. They will reportedly be allowed to decide the fares after the approval of the Rail Development Authority of India that is going to be constituted,” said Hemalata said in a statement on Monday. She said the government was “abdicating itself from its responsibility of providing affordable transport to the millions of poor and common passengers. The people will now be exposed to the market forces, not only in the matter of fares but also their safety.”
Citing the loss of over 200 lives in the three recent train accidents in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, the CITU pointed out that thousands of posts related to maintenance and safety in Railways were lying vacant.
“Instead of taking urgent measures to improve the safety conditions in the Railways, the government and the Rail Ministry have decided to privatise the Railways on the pretext of losses and the cost of maintenance,” Hemalata said, adding that “privatisation will further reduce accountability.”
Terming the reported move as a contradiction of repeated assurances given by the Prime Minister and the Railway Minister that the government had no intent to privatise the Railways, CITU called upon all Railway employees to resist any move to “hand over the national wealth and lifeline of our country to private companies.”