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Don’t privatise Railways says Opposition

Topics Covered: Infrastructure- Railways.

Don’t privatise Railways, says Opposition:


Context:

Opposition parties severely criticised the Modi government for concentrating their efforts in ‘privatising’ the Railways in the last seven years.

The Concern:

  • The Opposition leaders said privatisation of various railway infrastructure would only benefit corporates and loss of revenue for the railways, pushing it to the brink like the Air India and the Indian Airlines. It would also mean rise in fares.
  • Besides, privatisation did not always mean improvement in efficiency. The catering services were privatised almost two decades back yet there were complaints from passengers.

Recommendations by Bibek Debroy Committee:

The Bibek Debroy Committee, which was set up to suggest ways to mobilise resources for the Indian Railways and restructure the Railway Board, had favoured privatisation of rolling stock: wagons and coaches.

Rail Privatisation:

Pros:

Improved Infrastructure– It will lead to better infrastructure which in turn would lead to improved amenities for travellers.

Balancing Quality of Service with High Fares–  The move would foster competition and hence lead to overall betterment in the quality of services.

Lesser Accidents–  Because private ownership is synonymous with better maintenance, supporters of privatisation feel that it will reduce the number of accidents, thus resulting in safe travel and higher monetary savings in the long run.

Cons:

Coverage Limited to Lucrative Sectors – An advantage of Indian Railways being government- owned is that it provides nation-wide connectivity irrespective of profit. This would not be possible with privatisation since routes which are less popular will be eliminated, thus having a negative impact on connectivity. It will also render some parts of the country virtually inaccessible and omit them from the process of development.

Fares –  Given that a private enterprise runs on profit, it is but natural to assume that the easiest way of accruing profits in Indian Railways would be to hike fares, thus rendering the service out of reach for lower income groups. This will defeat the entire purpose of the system which is meant to serve the entire population of the country irrespective of the level of income.

Accountability –  Private companies are unpredictable in their dealings and do not share their governance secrets with the world at large. In such a scenario it would be difficult to pin the accountability on a particular entity, should there be a discrepancy.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. When were Railway and General budgets merged?
  2. India’s first private train.
  3. Bibrek Debroy Committee is related to?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of privatisation of railways and challenges involved therein.

Sources: the Hindu.