Are Indian railways ready to be privatized? How will it change the functioning of railways?

After inviting private players to run over 150 trains, the center has announced its plans to push privatization efforts and methods for the Indian Railways. Efficiency is one of the key factors that the government is striving for and hence the privatization of trains but what will be the impact of the incoming of private methods in one of the world’s largest employers.

The decision to go private can prove to be right from the point of view of the transport system in the country. Over the years, Airways and roadways have seen a huge change be it in terms of technology or preferences and the credit can partially go to the private sectors. One thing that private-sector promises is their constant need to be better and considering the current situation of Indian railways, this will be the best time to open the private market.

The operation of these passenger trains is a part of a project that “would entail private sector investment of about Rs 30,000 crore,” the Railways Ministry said in a statement. “This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over Indian Railways network,” it added.

The railway’s ministry also made it very clear earlier during this month that their core objective remains to modernize tech. “The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world-class travel experience to passengers, and also reduce the demand-supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector,” the ministry said.

But why then are the users and railway employees resisting this transition. Rail users, essentially fear that privatization will demean the value of rail as a cheap mode of transport for the poor and middle-class. With railways being under the government, fares haven’t gone up for over a decade. While speaking to the New Indian Express,  Edward Jeni, secretary, Kanyakumari District Railway Users’ Association said, “No private company would be interested to operate trains on uneconomic routes. So high demanding routes have been earmarked for private trains. The revenue earned from the highly demanding routes helps railways to operate passenger trains in uneconomic routes. Now additional earnings through suvidha and other premier trains will go to private players thereby forcing railways to cancel less patronized trains.”

Some of the passengers also believe that this will increase corruption and malpractices in the transport system. It will become a battle of convenience.

What can work for the government is tenure-based ownership for the private companies so that these companies always remember that the power is still with the government or maybe trial and test method before actually going full throttle with the conversion from govt to private. However it may be, the government can not rather forget that railways are based out of convenience but need. So even if they hope for a long and prosperous journey of the railways in India, priority should be the public.

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