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Indian Railways to Shut Down 5 Printing Presses, Will Outsource Ticket Printing

Disregarding TU opposition, printing presses in Chennai’s Royapuram, Secunderabad, Mumbai, Howrah and Delhi’s Shakurbasti will be closed down.

New Delhi: The Ministry of Railways has decided to move forward with its 2019 decision to shut down its five printing presses and outsource the printing of tickets, according to a report published in The Hindu. The railway administration aims to achieve complete digitisation of the ticketing system.

Notably, the All India Railwaymen Federation (AIRF), Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU), and other trade unions have resisted the decision. The Railways had initially deferred the decision in response to the trade unions' opposition but has now decided to go ahead with its decision.

The printing presses to be closed are in prominent areas of Royapuram in Chennai, Secunderabad, Byculla in Mumbai, Howrah in West Bengal and Shakurbasti in Delhi.

According to the report, the Railway Board has told all Zonal Railways that the printing presses will be closed. The staff will be suitably redeployed, and the machinery, plants, etc., will be disposed of by the zonal railway concerned, adds the report.

The land released after the printing presses' closure should be "gainfully utilised"; however, it remains unclear whether the Railways will develop the immovable assets for commercial purposes or sell them in the open market.

The report also mentions that following the closure of the printing presses, the printing of Passenger Reservation System and Unreserved Ticketing System tickets, Privilege Passes, Privilege Ticket Orders, etc., will be outsourced to security printers approved by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) or the Indian Banks’ Association.

The Railways had planned to close the printing presses by March 2020. They authorised the respective Principal Chief Materials Managers to dispose of all unusable printing and other machines in the market on a second-hand basis instead of selling them as scrap.

Meanwhile, the largest rail union, AIRF’s president N. Kannaiah, told The Hindu that the employees will continue to oppose the decision, stating that the printing presses' contribution to the Railways' day-to-day functioning was significant over the decades.

"It is a policy decision of the Union Government to close down printing presses functioning under various Ministries. While many have wound up, we resisted the closure of the Railways. Printing of tickets and other money-value items should not be outsourced,” he is quoted as saying.

Kannaiah stated that the staff strength of the printing press in Royapuram in Chennai had already been reduced from 600 to 35, with no fresh recruitment and no replacement for posts that had fallen vacant following employees' retirement.

However, the Royapuram printing press was modernised recently with machinery imported from Spain, and the staff were also sent to that country for training, he said.

 In the event of the closure of the printing press at Royapuram, Mr Kannaiah suggested developing the land as a new terminal instead of selling the prime property to private parties.

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