07 May, 2021

Privatisation Of Indian Railways: Why It Will Deepen The Class Divide

The Indian Railways carries over 23 million, mostly poor passengers, in about 13,000 trains daily. Will private players run trains for public good?

New Way
The vibrantly coloured Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express
Privatisation Of Indian Railways: Why It Will Deepen The Class Divide

A sense of satisfaction crept over Ankit Mishra after his journey from Lucknow to New Delhi on Tejas Express. He spent around Rs 1,800 for a dis­­­­t­­ance covering 480 km—twice the regular fare; equal to an air ticket. Meals were provided on board; 25 minutes were shaved off the usual travel time of 6.40 hours. “The journey was fine…it seems railways is trying to compete with airways,” says Ankit.

Ankit owes his experience to the Indian Railways’ experiment to outsource the running of passenger trains to private entities. To start its pilot, it picked its catering arm, Indian Rai­l­way Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), to run Tejas Express six days a week between Lucknow and New Delhi. It was India’s first “private semi high-speed passenger train”.

Not just plush interiors and good food, passengers coughing up a higher fare would get another commodity unheard of in these parts: accountability and compensation. A delay of over an hour would enjoin IRCTC to pay a compensation of...

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