Iconic 123-year-old Central Railways press in Mumbai’s Byculla set to close down

Press classified as part of ‘unproductive ventures’

Mumbai suburban train tickets are now printed on a digital printer

Central Railways’ iconic printing press in central Mumbai’s Byculla area is expected to shut down soon, if a report published by The Times of India on 16 August is to be believed. The press was opened in 1895 and initially was the hub of printing activities for the Great Indian Peninsula Railways, printing everything from tickets to railway stationery.

The decision to shut down the press comes after the railway ministry late last year proposed to close all the railway printing presses, which the ministry now considers part of ‘unproductive ventures’. In fact, the proposal to close all the 16 printing presses owned by the Indian Railways across the country first found mention in 2001 in the Rakesh Mohan Committee report. The idea of closing the presses was formally proposed last year by the railway ministry in the aftermath of the tragic incident of stampede that took place at the Elphinstone Road railway station in September 2017. Following the unfortunate stampede incident, a high-level meeting was held by railway minister Piyush Goyal, wherein the chairman and other railway board officials also participated. Certain important decisions were taken in the said meeting, including closure of railway printing presses.

There is a reason why the railway ministry considers these presses part of ‘unproductive ventures’. According to The Times of India, out of the 16 presses owned by the railways, only five presses are operational across the country. All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) has opposed the ministry’s decision stating that closure of the presses will disrupt lives of the employees and their families. However, the ministry has gone forward with its decision and in July, the railways closed the Mahalaxmi printing press, also in Mumbai, which was under the Western Railways.

The Byculla press under the Central Railways was the hub of printing activities before the onset of computers. Items such as tickets, receipts, time tables, documents and books meant for railways was printed at the Byculla press. “There was a time when 25 crore tickets were printed for Central Railways annually. Gradually the strength of employees, too, has come down from around 1,200 to 350,” an employee at the press told The Times of India.

The local railway unions have now opposed the decision to shut the Byculla press. One union member told The Times of India that if work is outsourced to private printing presses, these presses may not be able to meet large requirements on time. However, a Central Railways official was more pragmatic. “The railways are run as a socialist organization, but time has come to cut wasteful expenditure and deploy human resources for more productive work in operations, safety or commercial department. No decision has been taken on shutting down the press, but employees will be rehabilitated in other departments with no loss in pay scale,” the employee told The Times of India.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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