In the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi, workers of the protests have been on since June 25, but hardly any attention has been given to them. On Monday, July 1, the workers observed a Black Day.
As soon as the second Modi Government was sworn in, almost every ministry put out their 100-day plan. The Railway minister Piyush Goyal also did. In the list of items to be implemented by August 31 was corporatisation of production units and offer two trains to private passenger train operators.
But, what has irked most workers is the corporatisation of the seven production units – Chittaranjan Locomotive Works, Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi, Diesel Modernisation Works in Patiala, Wheel and Axle Plant in Bangalore, Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala and the Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli.
Workers of the Rae Bareli MCF have been protesting as well for more than 10 days. All of the Rae Bareli employees, around 2,500 of them, have been protesting along with their families near the office. According to reports, the Rae Bareli MCF will be the first unit to be corporatised.
In fact, the Rae Bareli MCF is even set to export 90 railway coaches to Mozambique. Railways will customise the coaches in terms of gauge, length and interiors to suit the needs of Mozambique railways and is expected to complete the export order by end of March 2020.
The protests at the Rae Bareli unit led the Congress Parliamentary Party leader Sonia Gandhi to mention it in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, July 2, during the zero hour. While opposing ministry’s proposal to corporatise its production units, including the Modern Coach Factory in her Lok Sabha constituency Rae Bareli, she alleged that it was the "first step" towards their privatisation.
Soon after, the Railways rejected her charge, but has hasn’t been able to convince either the lawmaker or the employees.
“On Tuesday, the Railway Board met the president and general secretary of the two recognised unions – National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) and All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF). We have opposed the corporatisation move of the Modi government. We even gave examples of corporatisation and informed them that wasn’t the solution to any of the problems. We asked what they wanted to achieve with corporatisation. They don’t even have a plan. What is their objective? We asked them to share their plan and objective of corporatisation,” explained Guman Singh, NFIR President.
Making an example or IRCTC, Singh said that the Railways had hived off the catering unit to IRCTC, which was corporatised. IRCTC then issued tenders for several catering units. “IRCTC doesn’t have a catering unit and it is all in private hands. It is still running on losses. So, profit is not their motive, but privatisation,” added Singh.
There have been protests and meetings at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai on the corporatisation move of the government since June 23.
Both the unions have opposed corporatisation. Armed with statistics, Singh said that the railway coach factories manufacture coaches in at low costs efficiently. “We also would like financial and functional autonomy to all the production units. The current management and workforce must evolve best practices and procedures to make those units highly competitive. Instead, they have come up with the corporatisation plan without even a white paper written on the need for corporatisation. Let them state their plans, let them state what is the problem with the existing system. But, they are not willing to do so,” highlighted Singh.
Principle Executive Director (Production Unit) Ravinder Gupta refused to comment. “The corporatisation of the production units is important to the Railways. I cannot comment on the matter any further,” said Gupta.