Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday termed the hike in rail fares as “horrible, unethical and undemocratic” and demanded its rollback while hundreds of her party supporters hit the streets as part of a week-long agitation against the Centre’s decision.
“We do not want any confrontation with the Centre. We are just requesting them to withdraw the rail fare hike as it will cause severe hardship to the people,” Mamata said in the state assembly.
The Assembly passed a resolution moved by Parliamentary Affairs and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee seeking withdrawal of the fare hike. In a rare bonhomie, the resolution was supported by the Opposition parties, including the Left Front, the Congress and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, an ally of BJP.
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“Unless we fight unitedly the new government will remove all subsidies. In their campaign, they promised ‘acche din’ (good days). So here is a sample of ‘acche din’: 14 per cent hike in passenger fare and 6 per cent hike in freight rates. It is horrible,” Mamata said in support of the resolution.
She said, during her and Mukul Roy’s tenure as railways minister, there was no hike. “When Dinesh Trivedy was a minister, he increased the fares but we did not allow it. There are other ways for revenue generation and they should be explored. The increase is unethical and undemocratic,” Mamata said.
Leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra too slammed the fare hike saying that it was a sample of Gujrat model. “Now the corporate-wallahs are demanding their pound of flesh. Good days really have come,” Mishra said.
Outside the House, hundreds of TMC activists, led by the party MPs, state ministers and legislators took out a procession from Subodh Mullick Square in the north to the Gandhi statue in the central part of the city demanding immediate rollback of the rail fare hike.
Addressing the party workers, TMC general secretary Mukul Roy said that the BJP had promised ‘achhe din’ but within a month they have put a huge burden on people.
Transport minster Madan Mitra said, “The fare hike is unfair. Contrary to their assurance of acche din, rone waley din shuru ho gaye (bad days have begun),” he said.
Other senior leaders such as Sovandeb Chatterjee said the Centre’s move was in favour of capitalists. Party MP Sudip Banerjee said, “At the time of debate on the rail budget, our MPs will definitely raise the issue in the Parliament”.
Leaders said that if their demands were not met they would continue with their protests in all democratic forms. A protest rally from Jadavpur 8B bus stand to Hazra would be taken out Tuesday.