In a circular issued on June 4th 2019 the Railway Board announced that its five printing presses shall be closed by March 2020. The five printing presses are Byculla/Mumbai (Central Railway), Howrah (Eastern Railway), Shakurbasti/Delhi (Northern Railway) , Royapuram/Chennai (Southern Railway) and Secunderabad (South Central Railway).
These printing presses are more than 100 years old and are responsible for printing tickets, timetables, maps, railway documents, books, etc. Over the years the staff of these printing presses have been steadily reduced. For example, Byculla printing press which had 1000 workers has only around 350 workers now. With computerised ticketing system being introduced, the card tickets which were being previously printed are now slowly being replaced. The railways want to outsource all of the entire work of printing to private presses citing the usual reasons of cost efficiency. The railways have plans to shift to a paperless ticketing system, even though large masses of our people are not able to handle the technology that is involved in paperless ticketing.
This is part of the overall direction in which the authorities are taking the Indian Railways, that is, to privatise/outsource the so called non-core activities. This is also in line with the Bibek Debroy Committee recommendations given in 2015. The announcement of the closing of the five printing presses on June 4th is an indication of more attacks on the workers of Indian Railways as well as all workers in public sector undertakings.
MEL calls on the workers of the Indian Railways to unite to oppose the privatisation of the railways.