Indian rail unions hold ‘black day’ protest against Debroy privatisation recommendations

The two recognised trade union organisations representing India’s railway employees – the All Indian Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) and the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) – held a nationwide ‘black day’ on 30 June after a week of protest since joining forces to reject the key recommendations of the Bibek Debroy committee, which they claim represent a move towards the privatisation of Indian Railways.

They wrote to rail minister Suresh Prabhu on 26 June to express their concerns, in particular about the recommendations to set up an independent regulator, separate the ministry and railway board, allow private companies to operate trains and replace regular workers with contract labourers. The report also recommends splitting core business – including track construction, train operation and rolling stock production – into separate entities. 

The unions said such moves would be against the interests of both the railway and the nation. They urged the government to bring together all stakeholders to discuss the recommendations in order to arrive at a consensus.
Since the 12 June report publication, five unions and associations of railway employees – the AIRF, NFIR, Federation of Railway Officers Associations (FROA), Indian Railway Promotee Officers Federation (IRPOF) and All Indian Railway Protection Force Association (AIRPFA) – have together opposed the recommendations. 
AIRF general secretary Shiv Gopal Mishra said: “Hundreds of thousands of AIRF members have today observed ‘black day’ all over the country by wearing black badges. The Debroy report is a clear roadmap for privatisation, and we hope it will not be accepted by the government."

NFIR general secretary M Raghavaiah said the report was aimed at damaging the very fabric of Indian Railways by recommending the restructuring of the board, which was totally unacceptable. He said the rail workforce had never failed in providing services and that it was a failure solely of the government.

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