This is because under former Railway Minister Mamatha Bannerjee Rs. 4,000 crore has been spent on various committees that served no purpose.
Needless expenditure and politicisation of Railways by successive ministers, neo-liberal policies and privatisation have led the Indian Railway into a state of crisis, said Basudeb Acharia, Member of Parliament from Bankura, West Bengal and former Lok Sabha Chairman of the Committee on Railways here on Thursday.
Addressing the Divisional Conference of the Dakshin Railway Employees’ Union (DREU), Palakkad Division, held at Town Hall in the city, Mr. Acharia, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said: “The funds of the Railways have been exhausted. This is because under former Railway Minister Mamatha Bannerjee Rs. 4,000 crore has been spent on various committees that served no purpose. Committees like heritage, culture, public amenities were filled with people whom she favoured. She also announced a series of Projects in West Bengal, some of the unnecessary, before the West Bengal elections to boost her chances of getting elected. Advertisements in newspapers and other media for these projects came out of Railways fund.”
He alleged that while Ms. Bannerjee and other previous Railway Ministers had money to spend on their constituency and publicity, they had no money to offer to “under-paid” staff in the Department.
The crisis, Mr. Acharia said, started by privatising ancillary functions of the Railways, which was a direct result of the liberation policies started in the 1990s. “Instead of strengthening the Railways’ production units, the Ministry is now handing out everything under Private-Public Partnership, leaving only the role of delivering passengers and goods to the Railways,” Mr. Acharia said.
He added that privatisation and outsourcing had lead to many vacancies arising, and with the Ministry having no money to start recruitments, the efficiency of the Department was affecting. “This in turn affects the safety of the passengers travelling by train,” he said.
Apart from asking the Central Government to increase the budgetary support to the Railways, Mr. Acharia also called for an end to “anti-labour” liberalisation policies. “This is where Unions like DREU become important, as they stand for workers’ rights,” he said.
The conference, which was attended by around 200 members, represented more than 7,150 employees of Palakkad division. Mathew Syriac P., Divisional Secretary, DREU Palakkad, said the one-day conference would address the issues facing workers, their solutions and means to strengthen the Union.
After the seminar, the DREU members carried out a protest rally between Town Hall and Mangalore Central Railway Station. While the prime demand was the filling up of over 2.8 lakh vacancies in the Indian Railways, other demands included implantation of eight hour shifts instead of the 12 hour shifts for staff currently, the upradation of the Mangalore Central Station and Mangalore Junction Station, said Mr. Syriac.