Privatisation of railways stadiums

:: M.Y.Siddiqui ::

To augment further resources, IR has handed over 15 of over 32 railway stadiums to the RLD for commercial development on PPP model, for which RLD has taken up techno-economic studies. In addition, IR has identified 87 land parcels, 84 railways colonies, four hill railways and three stadiums for monetisation so far. It is also planned to privatize/monetize Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) after its commissioning, as is learnt from official sources.RLDA has been charged with generating revenue for the IR by leasing out parcels of railway lands.

Union Ministry of Railways has planned investment of Rs.11.43 lakh crore in railways by 2024-25 in which Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA), a regulator set up to develop unutilized, surplus railwayland and air space for commercial utilisation keeping in view the futuristic use for the railways own requirements on Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model to garner additional resources for modernization, up gradation and expansion of railways to meet futuristic challenges of increasing faster freight and passenger traffic. Currently, Indian Railways (IR) is on mission mode to deliver 126 critical projects worth 1,15,000 crore. PPP in IR is key to infrastructural development, which forms bedrock of the economic development of the nation. IR, therefore, is integral part of infrastructural development of India.

Currently, RLDA is developing 60 railway stations in the form of mandatory station redevelopment and station estate commercial development. Mandatory station redevelopment will make travel smooth and hassle-free without diluting historical importance of such stations. Commercial development will enable developers to tap several revenue streams to ensure viability of the projects. Accordingly, redeveloped stations will be endowed with state-of-the-art amenities like segregation of arrival and departure, excellent road connectivity with multi-modal transport integration, security and surveillance systems to enhance the travel experience. It will augment tourism potential, boost real estate, and generate employment with a cascading impact on the national economy. It is just the process of realizing the benefits of PPP to accelerate infrastructural development of the IR. Railways have already launched Rs.15, 000 crore projects to improve its safety and efficiency in the current fiscal year 2021-22.

To augment further resources, IR has handed over 15 of over 32 railway stadiums to the RLD for commercial development on PPP model, for which RLD has taken up techno-economic studies. In addition, IR has identified 87 land parcels, 84 railways colonies, four hill railways and three stadiums for monetisation so far. It is also planned to privatize/monetize Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) after its commissioning, as is learnt from official sources.RLDA has been charged with generating revenue for the IR by leasing out parcels of railway lands. Sports complexes sought to be privatized are located at Railway Production Units, Modern Coach Factory, Rai Bareilly, Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, Rail Wheel Factory, Yelahanka (Bangaluru), Banaras Locomotive Works (formerly Diesel Locomotive Works), Varanasi, and Integral Coach Factory, Perambur (Chennai). All these Production Units have townships of their own and the sporting complexes are integral to them. Other facilities are in the zonal railways, such as, indoor stadium and cricket ground in Parel, Mumbai, sports complex at Mahalaxmi, Mumbai, hockey stadium in Ranchi. Other sports facilities are in Gorakhpur, Patna, Lucknow, Secundrabad, and Bhubaneswar.

Indian Railways employees unions and their federations are resisting and have protested to the government in the Ministry of Railways against decision to privatize the railway sports complexes depriving them of their facilities to maintain standards of excellence in maintaining health and fitness of railway work force, which have heretofore enabled them to be in the vanguard of national and international sports bringing glory to the nation. Privatisation of railway sports complex by the current Union Government is ill-conceived decision intended to disincentivise, discourage and demoralize the railway work force. Railway sports complexes, stadiums and indoor stadiums are located in landmark spots of cities across the country, which are being used by railway sports persons, enthusiasts and common railway men/women, serving and retired for maintaining a modicum of health and fitness. Such facilities are construed to be diluted to the detriment of railway employees. Union Government maintains that railway sports facilities will continue to remain sporting centres primarily and within such frame, they will be accessed after up gradation for commercial use by the private sector.

Railway unions complain that the current Union Government is out to privatize public assets built over a long time. Such steps are intended to increase all round costs of rail services to the nation, adding that steps to corporatize government assets will deprive the people of employment in the depleting national resources, while enriching corporate sectors, making such decisions anti-people in a rule of law based Constitutional democratic system wherein people are sovereign masters of the government they elect. In that context, the elected government of transient majority has no business to take decisions detrimental to their livelihood, employment, and personal dignity and right to life and liberty.

Despite such aggressive anti-people actions of the government, there is a glimmer of hope by men and women of good will and trusts that government’s sinister designs will not succeed as the land is a state subject in the Constitution of India, which means that the Government of India cannot change or alter land use norms except with the concurrence of the state governments. It also means that the Centre’s role is limited to Union Territories where it is on its own. To this extent, people are exuding confidence that the anti-people steps of the government to privatize surplus or unutilized railway lands may not succeed in the long run. Earlier efforts to corporatize surplus/unutilized defence, ports, surface transport, urban areas lands etc. came a cropper because of stiff opposition by the state governments. Well, one can hope that states will play their primordial role to put spanners in this wayward spree of the government!

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