Rail unions oppose FDI plan, say strategic network could be at risk

A day after Railways Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said his ministry was seeking the Union Cabinet’s approval to allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), two of the biggest recognised unions — representing 13 lakh employees — opposed the move saying the decision had been made “without taking stakeholders into confidence”.

“We are opposed to the government’s move to bring FDI into Railways. The Indian Railways is a strategic infrastructure and the government cannot expose it to FDI, especially when the Railways are supposed meet the need of the armed forces,” M Raghavaiah, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) told The Indian Express on Wednesday.

“This decision is of a government that has come to power with a brute majority. Instead of giving railwaymen credit for working round-the-clock, the Minister has tried to project that the Railways is not in good health. The minister should have reviewed the performance of the various outsourcing experiments before even thinking about FDI,” Raghavaiah said.

The All-India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) echoed similar sentiments. “We are against FDI. The move has much wider ramifications, there is a security angle involved. Even the Home Ministry has objected to this,”  AIRF general secretary Shiva Gopal Mishra said.

“Worse, the government has talked about it without taking stakeholders into confidence. It seems this government wants to sell-off the Railways. We will not let that happen,” Mishra added. Both AIRF and NFIR have also criticised the NDA government’s plan to introduce bullet trains.

“Bullet trains will only benefit the affluent people. This budget has again divided the country into two — India and Bharat,” Mishra said.

“Bullet trains are not for the common citizens. The country needs real services for the common passengers,” Raghavaiah said. “Also, how can the need for bullet trains be justified when we cannot run our existing trains at an average speed of 90 kilometers per hour,” Raghavaiah added. Meanwhile, the cash-strapped ministry is in the process of drafting a Cabinet note for allowing FDI in the railways.