The Indian Railways has decided to close down all the printing presses it owns and redeploy the staff employed in these units to other departments.
The move is part of the railways’ strategy to exit activities which are no longer integral to its functioning. “All printing presses owned by the railways will be closed and staff will be redeployed. The railways runs 14 printing presses,” said a ministry of railway official requesting not to be named.
The decision was taken during the marathon meeting called by railway minister Piyush Goyal of Railway Board members and general managers of all 17 railway zones.
These printing units are mostly very old and have outdated machinery, and with increasingly less requirement of paper-based communication they have ran out of favour.
“Traditionally, a lot of paper such as forms were used by the railways. But now these are getting automated and the quality of these presses are also very poor, given their vintage-era machines. These are moribund 19th century units which are not required any more,” said a former railway employee requesting not to be named.
According to the railway official quoted above, after the closure of of the units, all printing work will be done through tenders.
The railways has been taking various steps to decide the future of these units for long. In 2009, the railways had decided phased closure or merger of smaller general printing presses. Towards the end of 2016, the transporter was contemplating to open up excess capacity of at least five presses which were being modernised to cater to entities — including non-railway ones — other than the zonal railway they operated under.
These printing units were mostly used for printing books, forms and tickets. The Budget documents of the railways were being printed at security press not operated by railways. However, things have changed over the years with processes moving to paperless methods. A majority of the reserved ticketing has moved online after IRCTC started operations. Also, the railway Budget has now been merged with the general Budget. The tender process of the railways has also moved to electronic form.
According to a former finance commissioner of the railway, a lot of printing units have been scrapped earlier too as internal requirement of the railways has been going down. “Earlier, these units were used to print tickets which were then supplied to stations. Now, they have been computerised. Most of the units have become non-operational and have very few staff. The real estate of these units can be put to more productive use,” the financial commissioner added.
The staff working at these units will be retrained and redeployed. “The railways wants to weed out people from the system. For instance, some officers have far too many peons. They will be drawn out, trained and put on field,” the railway official said.