TN: ‘Don’t Bring Private Players in Vande Bharat Rail’ Say Coach Factory Workers
Image credit: Theekkathir
As part of the continuous protests against the New Pension Scheme (NPS), railway workers held demonstrations, public meetings and rallies in front of railway, defence and other union government offices across Tamil Nadu on February 21.
Dakshin Railway Employees Union (DREU) and Railway Contract Labourers Union (RCLU), All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and other trade unions participated in the protest rally held in within the premises of the Indian Coach Factory (ICF) in Perambur.
Amid growing demands from the opposition-ruled states for the transfer of money from the NPS corpus to state governments for restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), the finance ministry said there is no provision for such transfer as the money belongs to employees.
The rally began from the ICF General Manager residence, went via the staff colonies and concluded in the ICF bus stop. Nearly 1,000 workers participated in the rally.
Besides the demand to retain the OPS, the ICF Workers Union strongly raised the concern of private players in the Indian Railways.
VANDE BHARAT 2
In the 2022-23 union budget, the government mooted a plan to produce 400 rakes (16 coaches each) of semi-high speed (160-200 km/h) Vande Bharat trains to ensure fast and comfortable rail travel at an estimated Rs 52,000 crore.
ICF WU is concerned that the government is making attempts to rope in private players in the name of ‘technology partner mode’ wherein the production would be carried out by private corporates such as M/s Medha Servo Drive Private Ltd, Alstom SA, etc utilising the infrastructure existing in the production units of Indian Railways.
“There is no big technological difference between Vande Bharat 1 and 2. The first phase only produced chair cars, and for the new phase, the government is considering the manufacturing of VB (sleeper) for long-distance trains,” B Rajaraman, Secretary, ICF WU told NewsClick.
“There is a growing need for fast inter-city trains because long-distance travel for work has increased, and these should be manufactured by public sector undertakings. Vande Bharat 1 was done by us, it was a success,” he added.
Instead of tying up with private players, ICF WU has requested the government to set aside 5% of the allocated funds to the Advanced Electrical and Electronics Institute at ICF to pursue Research and Development (R&D) work on the production of low-cost Traction motors.
The union proposed a collaboration of ICF, Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) for research on electrical and electronic accessories.
“Developing indigenous technology using our resources would ultimately cut down the coach production costs, acting as an effective deterrent against the high cost of components which are imported,” read the letter to the minister.
The joint action council of railway employees demanded the ministry to fill the three lakh vacancies in the Indian Railways.
They also demanded the promotion of Group D workers, which has been pending for more than 10 years. They warned the administration of continuous protests, including work strikes if their demands are not met.
The council asked why the Modern Wheel and Axle Line developed in 2018 at a cost of Rs 136 crore has not started production for the last four years. It demanded the Railways to immediately take action to start production by imparting proper training to the ICF workers.
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