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Railway Employees’ Strike Highlights Need for Private Sector

"Why should the government provide transportation services when its job is to govern and regulate?" asked one reader defending the privatization of railway transportation in India. With the employees of Indian Railway threatening to go on indefinite strike from July 11, 2016, the reality is dawning upon the management now.

The issue is pay hike and the negative score of the Indian Railways is that they provide poor service when the nation is in dire need for quality service, especially running more trains and stopping the so-called "Tatkal" that is indirectly robbing the passengers huge amounts of money. Above all, Indian Railways enjoys monopoly of the railways whereas opening it up for private players will open thousands of jobs in the country.

Unmindful of consequences, the Employees Unions of Indian Railways have served notices to the General Managers of all 19 Zones under the National Joint Council of Action (NJCA) has given the call for the indefinite strike exactly one month from today.

NJCA convener and All India Railwaymen Federation General Secretary, Shiva Gopal Mishra said: “A last opportunity has been given to the government to settle our demands and avoid confrontation."

Among the 11 demands, one pertains to more hike in their pay, more than the recommendations of the seventh Central Pay Commission.

NJCA convener and All India Railwaymen Federation General Secretary, Shiva Gopal Mishra said, “There is resentment among the central government employees and rail employees against the Pay Commission’s recommendations and non-settlement of their long pending pay scale demands.”

The NDA government is caught in a Catch 22 situation over the strike. If the strike goes on, then it shows the inability of the Railway Board to be an effective player. If it concedes the demands, it will force the government-owned Indian Railways to charge more money from the passengers. As majority travellers in Indian Railways are from the middle class, the cascading effect will be huge for the BJP-led ruling coalition.

Either way, the new demand for ending the monopoly of the Indian Railways is sustaining more support as centuries-old railway network founded by the British colonial rulers is not reaping profits, let alone offering good service to the people.

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