नई दिल्ली New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s persuasive pitch to railway employees unions has cleared the decks for more FDI inflows and private capital in national transporter that may be reflected in the rail budget.
After Modi’s statement that there would be no privatization of railways, the workers’ unions have softened their stand over several issues including FDI in the transport behemoth. However, the unions are sticking to demands relating to scrapping of new pension scheme (NPS) and DA mergers.
The PM has said that he had a “deep connection” with the railways. “I love railways. My life is what it is because of railways,” Modi said. “The government will not go in the direction of railway privatization … People are spreading rumours about privatization of railways. It is not true,” Modi had said.
The change of heart came after railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s reassurance that FDI or public-private partnership (PPP) will not affect the ownership of railways. During the meeting of general managers last week where union representatives were also present, the minister argued that the government wants to attract private investment in cash-strapped railways and it was not for privatization of railways.
After Modi’s categorical assurance, Prabhu’s persuasive skills worked in convincing the union leaders, said a senior railways official. The union representatives were also satisfied with the minister’s assurance that the railways would not sell any piece of land but instead try to exploit the land commercially.
Shiv Gopal Mishra of All India Railwaymen Federation said, “Our opposition is not politically motivated. We demanded that there should not be privatization of railways and the issue of FDI must be discussed with full transparency.”
At the same time, Mishra warned the minister and railways official that the transporter should not invite FDI or money from national resources which could harm the railways because of overcapitalization or payment of interest on the borrowed capital.
However, the deadlock over the employees’ demands such as scrapping of NPS and DA merger continues.
The unions have been demanding the restoration of old pension scheme as had been done in case of defence because the working conditions in the transporter are risky and large number of employees die on duty. The NPS is without social guarantee. The unions have also hinted at opposing any radical restructuring of the railway board.
The union leaders admitted that there were problems, but blamed politicians at the helm of affairs for the mess.
A leader said ministers did not raise passenger fares for years and announced ‘unviable’ projects which pushed the state-run transporter into bankruptcy.