Stating that allowing foreign entities to enter the sector posed a “potential threat” to passenger safety, the railway workers’ union has raised concerns over the large-scale “outsourcing” of railway works.
In a memorandum to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) today raised serious concerns over the “privatisation” or “outsourcing” of regular works through contracts, which they alleged violated the provisions of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970.
“There has been a constant attempt to hand over the regular jobs to outside agencies, in detriment to the interest of safe travelling of the public. With a view to intensify the matter, a committee, headed by Bibek Debroy, was appointed and on the basis of the report of the committee, one by one different departmental activities of the Indian Railways are being handed over to private parties,” the memorandum said.
It added that the railway workers feared that gradually, the work of manufacturing coaches and locomotives, including their day-to-day maintenance, as also the maintenance of the tracks were being handed over to entrepreneurs.
“Private parties have also been allowed to run train-sets. The Indian Railways has formed a Station Development Authority and decided to hand over the stations to private parties gradually. The manning of level-crossing gates and patrolling of railway tracks are also being handed over to private parties…Posing a serious threat to the safe running of the railways,” the memorandum said.
The workers also raised concerns over 100 per cent foreign direct investments (FDI) in the railways and said agreements with Alstom (France) and General Electric (USA) for manufacturing electric and diesel locomotives included contracts for maintenance by the foreign agencies for a period of 15 years.
“Presently, orders have been issued by the Ministry of Railways to close down a number of printing presses and hand over those works to outside agencies. AIRF expresses its serious concern on large-scale outsourcing of railway works, part by part, causing a potential threat to the safety of the travelling public,” the memorandum said.
The AIRF said over 50,000 railway workers marched to Parliament today, protesting against the new pension scheme and with a demand for increasing the minimum pay. While the federation demanded the withdrawal of the National Pension Scheme, it sought an increase in the minimum pay from Rs 18,000 to Rs 26,000.
Sources in the Railway Ministry commented that “when innovation is part of the job, automatically the skilled resources would be taken from outside markets. Alstom and GE are falling within the policy of Make in India initiatives undertaken by the Government of India bringing the expertise, innovation and improved systems to Railways in India. Hence the trade unions need not unnecessarily worry on what is happening in the private enterprise segment and cannot equate that industry with Indian Railways“. The sources also commented that if AIRF wants everything to be insourced, then let them come with concrete plan of bringing innovative solutions, technology, idea and modus operandi, so that we can also plan insourcing. Till that time, they can’t throw stones at unknown vacuum.