The Indian Railways’ largest workers’ union has hit out at the Railway Board over its decision to hand over 15 of its stadiums to the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) to conduct “techno-economic studies for commercial development”.
In a reply to a query in Parliament in March this year, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had said that the national transporter has identified 87 land parcels, 84 railway colonies, four hill railways and three stadiums for asset monetisation so far.
He said that the Railways has planned to monetise assets, including Dedicated Freight Corridors after commissioning, railway land parcels, railway colonies, hill railways and stadiums.
“The All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) is with the sentiments of lakhs of railwaymen, their families, children and sports persons since strong resentment and anguish is seen all over the Railway Fraternity against arbitrary decision of the Railway Board to handover the railway sports grounds/complex and stadiums to the RLDA for commercial development,” Shiva Gopal Mishra, President, AIRF, said in a letter to Railway Board Chairman Suneet Sharma.
In the letter, Mr Mishra said that the railway sports complexes or stadiums and indoor stadiums are located in the heart of various important cities and are being used by sportspersons and other sports enthusiasts, besides common railwaymen (serving and retired) since many decades.
“These stadiums and sports complexes/grounds are not surplus and unusable railway land, which can be handed over to anybody else,” it said.
The move from the ministry has also found stiff resistance from the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) earlier who had protested the handing over of their stadium to the RLDA.
The RLDA is in charge of generating revenue for the Railways by leasing out parcels of railway land. It is also engaged in developing major stations in partnership with private companies.
On the list are sports complexes at production units in Modern Coach Factory, Raebareli; Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala; Rail Wheel Factory, Yelahanka, Bengaluru; Banaras Locomotive Works (formerly DLW), Varanasi; and Integral Coach Factory, Chennai.
All these production units have townships of their own and the sporting complexes are part of them.
The other facilities on the list belong to respective zonal railways – like the indoor stadium and cricket ground in Parel, Mumbai; a hockey stadium in Ranchi; and the sports complex at Mahalaxmi, Mumbai. The list also includes sports facilities in Gorakhpur, Patna, Lucknow, Secunderabad and Bhubaneswar.
The RLDA has maintained that these stadiums will remain sporting facilities primarily but it will be accessed if they can be upgraded and at the same time opened up for commercial use by private parties.