Rail Minister Sings the Mantra of Privatisation of Railways
The Budget for 2014-2015 of the Indian railways, presented by the Railway Minister Shri Sadanand Gowda represents the continuation of the course of privatization of the railways reflected in the budgets presented by the railway ministers of the UPA government.
While opening his presentation of the Rail budget 2014-2015, the Minister said “Madam Speaker, an organization of this magnitude vested with varied responsibilities, is expected to earn like a commercial enterprise but serve like a welfare organization. These two objectives are like two rails of the railway track, which though travel together but never meet. “
Behind this statement of the Minister, lies the demand of the big capitalists. They want the government to prioritize on investing in those sectors of the railways which will give them maximum profits.
The Minister explained this priority in this brazen way “It is investment in doubling and tripling to decongest the over-utilized network, which brings money to Railways. On the other hand, construction of new lines, most of the times do not even meet operational cost as there is no commensurate demand. “
In other words building new railway networks is a waste, because it does not bring immediate returns. Whereas doubling, trebling and quadrupling existing busy routes is preferred because it “brings money to railways”.
A plan to connect the four metros, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta by a Golden Quadrilateral was announced which would require investment of over 8 lakh crores. The big capitalists see huge opportunities to make maximum profits from this project and is the driver behind the announcement of this project. The Railway Minister welcomed private investors, both Indian and Foreign to pour their capital to this project, claiming that the Railways did not have any resources to finance this project. In the same vein, building a facility to operate Bullet trains between Mumbai and Ahmedabad was also announced, costing an estimated Rs 60,000 crores. Up gradation of metro railway stations, provision of modern amenities etc will all be left open for private investment, which of course will pour into only the “profitable” sectors, namely the major cities. Following on the example of the privatization of the airports, the lands of the railways around these stations will be handed over to private parties to rake in maximum profits.
It is well known that rail is one of the most efficient means of transport, in terms of fuel consumption, minimizing pollution and speed of travel. Especially in a country like India with a vast land area, and limited fossil fuels, building and expanding the railway network to cover the length and breadth of the country should have been the priority of any government. However to build the railway lines requires an initial large investment of capital, which will pay itself back only over a long period of time. These can never accrue from the immediate earnings of the railways. The necessary capital and funds must be invested by the Government through resources raised from the national savings.
The big bourgeoisie wants only such investments in railway infrastructure which guarantee maximum profits. Not just the development of the Freight corridors along the Golden Quadrilateral, but also their operation will be handed over to private corporations. The responsibility of land acquisition will be with the government, as also all the losses that the projects suffer in the long period of gestation of these projects, while the capitalists will make assured maximum profits.
At the time of independence India had 54000 Kms of rail network. 66 years afterwards this has only increased to 65000 km, which amounts to hardly 200 kms of new railway lines every year. By declaring the construction of new lines as economically unviable, the Minister has revealed that his government does not care for the planned all-round development of the railways to connect the people of our vast country.
The Minister is openly declaring that his government has no responsibility of looking at the needs of Indian society as a whole, the need to develop all the regions and states of the country in a harmonious manner. On the contrary by handing over the responsibility of investing in railways infrastructure to the profit greedy big capitalists, Indian and Foreign, the wide disparity that exists between the different regions and states of India will only deepen causing more misery to millions of people who will be forced to migrate from these less developed regions to the more developed regions in search of a livelihood.
Just before the budget was announced, the government announced a steep hike in railway fares. In his speech, the Minister confirmed the decision of the previous UPA government to periodically raise rail fares allegedly to keep up with the increase in fuel prices. The argument of the capitalist class is that since road travel is costlier than rail travel, rail fares must be brought on par! This logic is completely absurd, since the actual cost of rail travel is less than that of road travel, while the speed of rail travel is greater than that of road travel, and that is why millions of our people use the railways every day, in preference to other modes of travel.
Justifying the rise in passenger fares announced by him even before the presentation of the budget, the Railway Minister said Þ;Rrnxzs fo"kfeo ifj.kkes ve`rksiee~Aß “The medicine appears as bitter in the beginning, but is like nectar in the end.”
This Party which promised “Acche Din” to the people of India during its election campaign, is now instead cruelly prescribing “bitter medicine” to the people.
The budget fulfils the demands of the big capitalists for reduction in freight fares. These are the major users of the freight services of the Indian railways and this will directly result in increase in their profits.
The British established the Indian Railways first to transport their armies to crush the rebellions of our people. Mines and factories were established in the mineral rich areas to build and establish the railways. Later on, they served the big capitalists, Indian and foreign, in transporting raw materials and manufactured goods. These have continued to be the priority areas for the railways, and not the needs of workers and peasants. During the whole period since independence, the railways have been used by the big capitalists to loot the public exchequer.
Now, the big capitalists have grown sufficiently big that they see maximum profits in directly taking over definite sections of the railways.
Under the rule of the bourgeoisie, whichever Government is in power will implement the one program of the capitalist class. In fact the current railway minister justified the proposals for increasing the passenger fares and the moves for privatization as a continuation of the policies presented in the interim railway budget in February 2014, by the outgoing Congress Led Government.
Workers must resolutely oppose the anti-national and anti social program of privatization of the railways. We need to change the orientation of the economy from fulfilling private greed to fulfilling the growing needs of the toilers and tillers. For this, we must work to establish the rule of workers and peasants in place of the present rule of the ourgeoisie.