Hyderabad: The Niti Aayog’s working paper on private participation in the Indian Railways has run into opposition from railway employees. Across the South Central Railway (SCR), employees staged protests and demonstrations against the move. Experts and members of the Zonal Rail Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC), the body responsible for consumer advocacy, were divided on the issue of privatisation.
Niti Aayog recently released a working paper titled ‘Private Participation: Passenger Trains’. It proposed to run 150 trains on 100 routes, including eight in the Secunderabad cluster.
U. Yadagiri, a member of ZRUCC through his association with the Secunderabad division users committee, said, “The idea of privatising the rail network is dangerous. It will ultimately be problematic for the common public.”
Yadagiri argued that no private operator would be able to offer the services the railways offers, and at such a low price. He said privately-operated trains would never be cheaper than those run by the railways. “Soon, trains could be out of the reach of the common public,” he added. “There are a lot of systemic issues -- corruption, bad planning and mismanagement -- within the railways that need to be addressed as soon as possible. But it seems the Centre has only one solution for all of them -- privatisation. Decisions taken in A/C board rooms won’t translate well on the ground,” he said.
However, Manohar Reddy, a ZRUCC member through his association with the committee from Hyderabad division, felt the opposite. “Privatisation will be a godsend for Telangana state. Our rail network is very old and needs updation. Private players will bring in much-needed expertise. Since these private players will have to work under strict guidelines, it would be good for overall punctuality,” he said.
On possible hike in fares, he said, “Yes, there might be a hike. But it would be worth it.”
Mr Arun Luharuka, a ZRUCC member representing the trade body Federation of Telangana Chamber of Commerce (FTCC), had similar views. “It is important that we look at privately-operated trains as complementary to the Indian Railways’ services. The former does not replace the latter,” he said.
He dismissed the idea that privatisation would spell doom for the Railways. “The fares in these trains will be regulated. It is not as if the private players would be able to charge as per their wishes,” he said.
Mr Luharuka said that only the operation of trains is being proposed for privatisation. “In due course of time, trains can be bought and run by private players. This way, we might get faster and better machinery into the country,” he said. into the country,” he said....