Out Sourcing in Railways on the Increase!

Interview with Comrade Y.G. Joshi (YGJ), President of National Railway Mazdoor Union(NRMU) of Central Railway

MEL Correspondent: Comrade Joshi, pl tell our readers how railways is going about privatizing its operations.

YGJ: The Railways have systematically planned to outsource a large number of its activities.

Take the case of Goods traffic. Previously the railways used to accept small parcels for shipment. This has been stopped now. Also previously a wagon load of goods could be sent from one place to another. Now the railways do not accept that also. It will only accept a whole rake consisting of 40 to 60 wagons for shipment. Even a 10 wagon load will not be accepted. Even for a full rake, the railways will only undertake point to point delivery in one direction with no intermediate drops. It is clear that only the big capitalists and state monopoly enterprises will be able to use the Goods Hauling facilities of the Indian Railways whereas previously the services could be utilized by even small businesses.

The entire cleaning activities of the railways including of stations, trains etc., has been privatized. Also the bed rolls loading/unloading, catering etc is fully privatized. The Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was formed by Ministry of Railways in 2002. Whereas previously the catering was provided by Indian Railways, after IRCTC was formed, the catering services for each train was outsourced to a private contractor, by tender, through IRCTC. 80% of the receipts by tender went to IRCTC and only 20% went to the Railways, even though it was the railways that provided the infrastructure, to which IRCTC had no contribution. However there were numerous complaints about the poor quality and hygiene of food that was served, hence the catering service was withdrawn from IRCTC. However since in the meantime, the railway personnel who had been working in the catering Dept of the Railways were transferred to other divisions, the railways did not have enough manpower to restart the catering operations. Hence the Railways continued to outsource the catering services for each train by the system of tenders, with the only difference that the Railways now received 100% of the receipts instead of 20% as previously!

It is only in the VIP Trains, namely Rajdhani, August Kranti and Duronto trains that a Manager is there for every one of these trains, however the rest of the staff providing services during the journey on these trains are fully outsourced.

The washing and cleaning of Carriages and Wagons is fully outsourced. Certain important stations have been identified as CTS (Clean Train Services) Stations. At these CTS stations, the trains, including windows are washed and this entire operation is outsourced. The A/C mechanics for A/C coaches are also employed by private contractors.
In the Railway workshops, the parts which were previously being manufactured in house are now being outsourced. For example seats/cushions of the trains were previously made in house at the Matunga Railway workshop. There was a carpentry shop and a smithy shop. But now these are procured from outside.

Another very retrogressive move made by the railways is that all existing Class 4 workers have been absorbed into Class 3 with effect from 01/01/2006 even though they continue to do the same jobs as before. The gangmen, points men, safaiwalas, khalasies, peons etc were previously Class 4 workers. As these people retire, their vacant positions are not filled up. The work is now outsourced to private contractors. 

Our gangmen, who constitute the largest number of 3 lakh employees, know what are the Standard Moving Dimensions, for safe repair of tracks. But their work has been outsourced private contractors are employing gangmen who work under extreme conditions for a few years and then leave. The number of fatal accidents involving these private gangmen are increasing and there is increasing risk to the traveling public also as they are not properly trained. The private contractors who are hired are not qualified and their work is not up to the standard.

Recently the Railways have announced the formation of Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFC), connecting the 4 Metro Cities, Chennai/Mumbai/Delhi/Calcutta for smoother movement of goods traffic. These were formed under PPP, Public Private Partnerships, and the revenues so far being earned by Indian Railways through Goods Traffic will now be taken away by the private players operating these DFC’s. The major share of the Railways revenue is earned from Goods traffic and only a minor amount from passenger traffic. Japan is actively pushing the Indian Government for these projects. However it wants to retain control over these projects.

The privatization and outsourcing is the reason why the number of employees in the Indian Railways is continuously decreasing. However another reason is the technological up gradation.

MEL: Thank you Comrade Joshi for a very informative interview.              

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