Scrap Bibek Debroy report on Railway restructuring: say Unions

New Delhi: Angry about the recommendations of the Bibek Debroy-led panel,  Railway trade unions are planning to launch mass demostrations and large scale rallies in protest. They are also demanding scrapping of the report that recommends “privatisation in the name of liberalisation”.

“A bare perusal of the report reveals that the committee in the name of liberalisation has recommended entry of new operators into railway operations, that is, privatisation,” said Guman Singh, President of National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR), which represents more than 80% of Indian Railways’ over 1.3 million workers.

The federation’s press secretary also said the unions’ brass has given clear directions to its affiliates to arrange mass demonstrations, large scale protest rallies and press conferences to express the anger of the railway employees against the recommendations of the committee.

Planning Commission member Bibek Debroy had on Friday submitted his report on the restructuring of the railway board and mobilisation of resources for railway projects to the rail ministry. He is also expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the weekend to brief him about the recommendations.

While Debroy has recommended liberalisation of railways and sought to define liberalisation separately from privatisation in the report, he has also said that entry of private players into the system is already provided by the extant policy.

Trade unions fear any effort at bringing in private players into railway operations would jeopardise workers’ jobs and negatively impact railways’ financial health.

The Debroy panel has also recommended setting up an independent regulator, merging of the eight existing Group A railway services, rationalising of the workforce and restructuring of Indian Railways on the lines of British railways.

Unions complain Debroy did not examine the actions of successive governments in starving the railways of investments and instead blamed the workforce for its problems.

NFIR said it is not desirable to experiment with FDI and private players in infrastructure without building massive railway infrastructure first and in his euphoria for a roadmap, Debroy ignored the shortcomings of European railways including the failed privatisation model of British Railways.

“Restructuring cannot be an exercise subjected to such a ‘disastrously confused perspective’ of connecting the current state of affairs with what is desired for the future,” the union said in its comments on the report.

The other influential union, All India Railway Federation (AIRF) has also called for observing June 30 as “Black Day” in protest of the Debroy report. AIRF General Secretary Shiv Gopal Mishra termed the report as clear roadmap for privatisation and hoped its recommendations are not accepted by the government.

There are some good things in the Debroy Panel Report: AIRF

While rejecting the final report of the railway restructuring committee headed by Bibek Debroy, the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) has welcomed some of its recommendations.

“We support the idea of accounting reforms. But, as far as any regulator is concerned, we want the regulator to be a tariff authority only, instead of being responsible for operations and maintenance as well,” AIRF General Secretary Shivagopal Mishra, told.

Admitting that there is departmentalism in the Railways, Mishra said a mechanism needed to be worked out to make Indian Railways work as a team.

But, the mechanism needs to be different from what has been suggested by the Bibek Debroy committee, he added.