United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday opposed in the Lok Sabha the proposed corporatisation of the Railways’ Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli, PTI reported. Gandhi accused the government of “selling the country’s assets” at a throwaway price. However, Railways rejected the charge, and said the factory will remain under government control.

Railways said “corporatisation was not privatisation”.

The former Congress president represents Rae Bareli in the Lower House of Parliament.

According to recent news reports, the railway ministry has come up with a 100-day plan to corporatise seven production units and associated workshops under one entity called the Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company. The Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli is one of the production units.

“Those who don’t understand the real meaning of corporatisation...It is actually the first step towards privatisation,” Gandhi said in the Zero Hour. “They are selling the country’s assets to handful private players at a throwaway price. This will leave thousands unemployed.”

She said that the Modern Coach Factory was the most modern factory of the Indian Railways and had been manufacturing best coaches at cheap rates.

“What railways means by corporatisation is making a government PSU [Public Sector Undertakings]– the Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company – under the Ministry of Railways and shifting the production units including MCF, Rae Bareli to it,” an unidentified official told the news agency.

“This means they will remain under government control but will be better managed as these production will become fully functional PSUs,” the official added. “This will help drive technology partnership and modernisation.”

Gandhi said the unit was set up during the rule of the Congress-led government to promote indigenous production – which she referred to as “Make in India”, the name of an initiative of the current government.

“The government has invested heavily in it,” PTI quoted her as saying. “It is difficult to understand why the government wants to resort to corporatisation.”

Gandhi further said the employees had not been taken into confidence and expressed sadness that their livelihood and their families’ future was in danger. “I urge the government to protect the Modern Coach Factory and other PSUs [public sector undertakings] and give respect to the farmers and their families,” ANI quoted Gandhi as saying. “Their condition is not hidden from anyone.”

Last week, the largest workers’ union of the Indian Railways had warned the government of unrest brewing among employees against the plan to corporatise the Railways’ production units. When a senior railways official visited the Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli on June 25, he was accosted by over 2,500 workers and met with “go back” slogans.