Whether private players can run the Railways efficiently without accidents and without delays is a question that never bothered Modi government. If at all accident takes place can they pay adequate compensation to the families of all the deceased? Can they provide compensation and better treatment to the injured? In private industries with poisonous gas leaks, the number of deceased usually will be in double digits. But in the case of rail accidents it will be in hundreds.

Already industrialists and big business magnets instead of preferring first class or AC two-tier opt to go by air. Often, they book reservation in advance and get tickets cheaper. Their journey time too gets curtailed from 24 hours to two hours from Delhi to Hyderabad. Even three-tier passengers also many times prefer to travel in flights instead of wasting time. If private players are entering into railways, they will definitely raise railway fares and abdicate the responsibility of taking passengers in general compartments. Definitely they will reduce the number of general compartments.

They will not give any concession to physically challenged, students, employees and even families of railway workers. If they maintain status quo they are bound to go bankrupt and again the government has to bail out private players to lift the sector from bankruptcy. The government has to come to their rescue by paying out of government treasury.

Indian Railways is having a work force of12.3 lakhs of employees and its net income was Rs 6,014 crore in 2018-19. It is having 7,321 stations all over India. Nearly 23.12 million people are using Railways daily in India. It is the fourth largest Railways on the planet. It is after USA, Russia and China. Indian Railways is having tracks with 36 per cent either double tracked or multi tracked and 58 per cent of tracks are being electrified.

Similarly, Indian Railways is having 12,147 locomotives and 74,003 passenger coaches and 2,89,185 freight wagons. India has decided to electrify all tracks by 2023. Indian Railways is having its own 44 locomotive sheds and 212 carriage & wagon repairs all over India. If Indian Railways is not efficient, how such self-sufficient units are built up independently?

Now the Union government has taken a decision to allow private players to run 151 trains. The government has invested huge amount in laying down the railway tracks, other infrastructure like signalling system, locomotive sheds, and railway stations, etc. Recently railway stations are being modernised also with government money. Private tycoons entering railways at this stage means that profits are privatized and losses are socialised. If railway tracks are damaged, and signalling system is yet to be repaired, will they repair? If privatisation takes place what will happen to the manufacturing units owned by Indian Railways? What will happen to Indian youth aspiring for jobs in railways in general and deprived classes like SCs, STs and backward classes in particular?

After privatization what is going to happen? They will remove the concession facility. General compartments also will not be there. Cargo charges will rise, resulting in prices of essential commodities going up. With private airlines mushrooming, flight charges are more or less equal to train charges. Hence occupancy ratio in first class, two-tier and three-tier, will drastically fall. Ticket charges will be hiked exorbitantly and will become unaffordable for common masses. If Railways is privatised, charges for 1,000 kms will be hiked from Rs 700 to Rs 2200. That means a burden of three times will be heaped upon the citizens.

At present Indian Railways is an effective policy maker, a regulator and a service provider. The pro-corporate advocates argue that if privatisation takes place, productivity will increase and quality will improve. If that is the case even after implementing liberalisation policies, why lakhs of private industries are getting closed. According to a survey in private industries, even 60 per cent of installed capacity is not being utilized.

If productivity increases why are they getting closed? Are they intentionally closing, in order to evade bank loans which is public money? Indian Railways is dealing with large number of work force of 12.3 lakhs employees. There is an argument that if private tycoons enter the Railways, best administrators and skilled work force will be hired. So far, if there were no best administrators how such a gigantic industry is being regulated. As Indian Railways is in public sector, it is maintaining connectivity with all regions.

Profit seekers will run trains in developed are as in order to increase occupancy ratio. Will they go to Himalayan region, North eastern region and Madhya Pradesh? Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha where poverty is more rampant people would not be able to purchase tickets. What will be the position of workers? Their strength will be downsized. Working hours will be enhanced. Wages, allowances and other fringe benefits will be curtailed. Inspite of it, private players will run away in order to evade bank loans.

Even in Great Britain railways were in public sector till 1990. Now again people are demanding reversal of the decision and nationalisation of UK railways. The Modi government is refusing to take any lessons from the experience of the other countries in running the railways. Corporate interests, not public good is dominating their policies. (IPA Service)