Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi indulged in baseless fearmongering today in Lok Sabha when she accused that Modi government is privatising production units Indian Railway. Referring to the government’s decision to corporatize 6 factories of Indian Railway, Sonia Gandhi alleged that it is being for the benefit of a few rich industrialists. She was addressing the parliament for the first time in the newly elected 17th Lok Sabha during the zero hour on 2nd July 2019.
UPA Chairperson & MP from Rae Bareli Smt. Sonia Gandhi raises critical questions on the privatisation of railway factories in the Lok Sabha. pic.twitter.com/M1C3x1s1RV
— Congress (@INCIndia) July 2, 2019
Reading her speech in her trademark broken Hindi, the former Congress president mentioned that Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli, which is her parliamentary constituency, is also included in the factories shortlisted for corporatisation. She said, “those who don’t know the real meaning of corporatisation, I would like to explain them that Corporatisation is actually the beginning of Privatisation.” She said that corporatisation is the first process in handing over the priceless national treasure to a few rich capitalists for a pittance.
Sonia Gandhi alleged that this proposed move of Modi government will future of the employees working in the factory and their families will be in grave danger if the factory is corporatized. She also questioned the last Modi government’s decision to do away with presenting separate railway budget.
Although it is true that the railway ministry has proposed corporatisation of some railway units, it is absolutely misleading to say that it is done with the objective of privatisation.
In the 100-day plan prepared by the ministry after the formation of the new government, a proposal to set up a new government-owned public sector unit named Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company Ltd (IRRSCL) has been included. The ministry aims to hive off its locomotive and rolling stock production units and their associated workshops into this new entity.
The aim of this is to bring in increased efficiency in production in the units. The IRRSCL is proposed to drive the technology partnership and modernisation initiatives of the seven production units under the Ministry of Railways. Each production unit under a CEO will operate as an individual profit centre.
The ministry is planning to only corporatize its production units in a separate entity, and it does not mean privatisation. Therefore, Sonia Gandhi was presenting distorted facts in Parliament by saying that the government is planning to privatise the production units. Even after corporatisation, the production facilities will remain a government entity named IRRSCL, and they will not be handed over to some industrialist like she is alleging.
PSUs remain under government ownership but function in a more efficient manner as they have great autonomy. The Indian government have several successful PSUs, many of them listed as Maharatna, Navaratna and Miniratnas, and just the fact that they are corporations does not mean that they are going to be privatised.
Sonia Gandhi also alleged that the employees of the MDF have not been taken into confidence in the matter. But that is also untrue, as the ministry has only unveiled the plan, which says that the department will consult with unions and will ensure that no harm happens to them. According to reports, Railways will start consolations with unions immediately, and they will start with Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli.
Coming to Rae Bareli’s Modern Coach Factory that Sonia Gandhi was talking about specifically, it may be noted that although it was established to manufacture coaches, during UPA government no such manufacturing happened there. Instead of producing 1000 coaches per year as promised by the UPA government, the factory only refurbished 375 coaches between 2011 and 2014. Only after BJP came to power in 2014, the MCF actually started producing coaches. Starting with 140 coaches made in 2014-15, it is doubling production every year, and produced a record 1425 coaches in 2018-19, exceeding the target of 1422 units.
Therefore, while Sonia Gandhi worries about the future of the factory, the fact is that the factory flourished at unprecedented scale under the Modi government, which was ignored and forgotten during Congress rule.