A letter from Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant to V. K. Yadav Chairman, Railway Board to constitute an Empowered group for fast track privatization. The government has given green signal to the privatization of the trains constituting a committee as part of the phase one privatization policies.
About 150 trains and 50 railway stations will be given to private companies to run the day to day operations in a time-bound manner.
The committee will be labeled as as empower group which will constitute Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant Chairman Railway board V K Yadav, Secretary of Department of Economic Affairs and Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will also be participants of the group.
Kant has insisted that representatives from Engineering Railway Board and Traffic Railway Board must be involved in the Empower group. He also added that Railways were supposed to take up 400 railway stations for renovation but they failed to do so and very few have been renovated so far.
Kant Stated, “I had a detailed discussion with the Ministers of Railway wherein it was decided that there is a necessity to take up the matter on priority for at least 50 stations. Considering the recent experience in the privatization of six airports a similar process for setting up an empowered group of secretaries to drive the process in a time-bound manner.”
He further said, “As you are aware that the ministry of railways has also decided to bring in private train operators for passenger train operations and is contemplating to take up 150 trains in the first phase.”
A detailed dialogue with Railway minister was carried out by Kant about a proposed plan to upgrade 50 railway stations in the first phase. The letter has been dispatched then to implement the plans.
Privatization blueprint by Bibek Debroy Committee for Railway Stations
Back in 2014, India allowed entry of foreign players to restructure railways with 100 % FDI. Japan and Korea are keen to grab this opportunity. The privatization seems to be an implementation of recommendations based on the Bibek Debroy committee report. The report recommended privatization as the key to the efficient railway system. The committee studied foreign railway infrastructures including the United Kingdom, USA, Sweden, Australia, Germany and many more.
Recently the Railways have asked their zonal offices to identify and provide lists of viable roots for introducing the privately operated trains.
Tejas Express – first privately run train
On a trial basis, Lucknow Delhi Tejas Express was run by private operator Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) on October 4.which is a subsidiary of Indian Railways. The train is fully air-conditioned with a capacity of 758 passengers. It has nine AC chair car coaches, and one executive class chair coach.
IRCTC provides several premium amenities to the passengers at additional costs. It offers combination meals, free insurance up to 25 lakh and money-back compensations in delays or cancellations of trains.
Nationwide protests against Privatization
The launch of the privately operated Tejas Express was highly condemned across the nation. The All India Railway Men’s Federation (AIRF) strongly protested against the privatization move by labeling the launch day of Tejas Express as ‘Black Day’.