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Rail Budget: Mamata slams fare hike,Trivedi says it’s in interest of country,’not party,Writers’

TMC calls budget anti-people; Trivedi says he didn't consult Mamata as she doesn't interfere.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi |
March 14, 2012 5:44:26 pm

In a bold move,Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi today proposed an across-the-board hike in passenger fares to net Rs 4,000 crore extra a year in his Budget but his proposals were immediately attacked by his own party Trinamool Congress – a move that can trigger a political crisis within the party and also within the UPA.

Breaking an 8-year populist trend of not touching passenger fares,the Railway Budget for 2012-13 effected a hike in suburban and non-suburban fares,ordinary second class mail and express fares,sleeper class,1st class,all AC class travel and Rajdhani,Shatabdi,Duranto and Janshatabdi trains. This,the minister said,was necessary to tackle the crippling fund crunch in the department and to generate revenue for the Railways’ modernisation.

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Leaving freight rates untouched,the minister claimed there was no steep hike in the fares but he effected the increase through a sleight-of-hand by raising fares according to distance.

Just after the minister completed his 100-minute speech in the Lok Sabha,Trinamool Congress,which has already moved amendments to the President’s address (on the NCTC),stoutly opposed the hike and demanded its rollback.

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Addressing a rally in Nandigram,Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee reasserted that her party would not allow the fare hike. She told the rally the parliamentary party had taken up the matter.

It was not clear whether the party would move cut motions to the budget. If a cut motion is adopted,it amounts to defeat and the government may have to go.

A delegation of party MPs met Trivedi and placed the demand. TMC Parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said the party cannot support passenger fare hike which was anti-common man.

Unfazed by the attack on him by his own party for raising rail fares,Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi today justified the move saying it was a “conscious decision” in the best interest of the Railways. He said the party leadership was not aware of the provisions made in the Railway Budget.

“It is a very big misconception that the Railways is run from the Writer’s Building (headquarters of West Bengal government). She (Banerjee) did not know anything at all and there was no interference by her in any aspect of the budget,” Trivedi said in reply to a volley of questions after he presented his maiden budget in Parliament.

While a suburban second class travel up to 150 km will cost Rs 5 more,it will be an additional Rs 94 by second class for a distance of 3,062 km between New Delhi and Trivandrum. For the same distance,the increase in the AC chair-car fare will be Rs 314 and for AC 1st Class it will be Rs 933.

For travel by Rajdhani between New Delhi and Ernakulam (Kochi) — a distance of 2,950 km,the increase will be Rs 937 by AC 1st Class,Rs 466 for AC 2-Tier,Rs 306 for AC 3-Tier and Rs 217 for AC chair car.

Passenger fares have been increased by 2 paisa per km to 30 paisa per km depending on distance and class of travel.

The price of platform ticket will go up from Rs 3 to Rs 5 and fares have been rounded off to the next nearest Rs 5. Tickets priced upto Rs 6 will become Rs 5 and above Rs 6 will become Rs 10.

Addressing a press conference,Trivedi defended the hike saying it was a “conscious decision”,keeping in mind the best interest of the Indian Railways and the country. “No comment,” was his reply to questions on his party’s opposition to the hike and whether he would resign. “Political parties have their own philosophy,” he said about the hike adding,”We take decisions with full responsibility”.

Maintaining the party or its leadership was not aware of the decision to hike passenger fares,he said ever since he took over the ministry,all sections he came across,including the media,committees and federations,had urged him to raise fares.

He said for the last eight years,there had been no increase in fares while freight rates have been hiked and he had sought to bring in a balance by his decision to raise passenger fares.

He also cited inadequate budgetary support of Rs 24,000 crore against a requirement of Rs 45,000 crore.

Passenger fares have been increased by 2 paisa per km for suburban and ordinary second class; 3 paisa per km for mail/express second class; 5 paisa per km for sleeper class; 10 paisa per km for AC Chair Car,AC 3 Tier and First Class; 15 paisa per km for AC 2 Tier and 30 paisa per km for AC 1st.

The hikes work out to be 10 to 15 per cent in most cases and 20 to 25 per cent in many others.

Describing Indian Railways as passing through difficult times,Trivedi said gross traffic receipt this year at Rs 1,03,917 crore was short of budget estimates by Rs 2,322 crore.

For next fiscal,he projected a 27.6 per cent higher tariff receipts at Rs 1,32,552 crore and a passenger growth of 5.4 per cent.

He pegged the annual plan outlay 2012-13 at record high of Rs 60,100 crore,of which Rs 18,050 crore would come from internal resources of the railways.

Indian Railways will borrow Rs 16,050 crore in 2012-13 including Rs 15,000 crore through its financial PSU,IRFC.

It will return a loan of Rs 3,000 crore to the Finance Ministry by the end of 2012-13. Also,the Railways would make a dividend payout of Rs 6,676 crore to the central government,he said.

Surplus with the Railways have been projected to come down to Rs 1,492 crore in 2011-12 from Rs 5,258 crore projected at the beginning of the year. Trivedi announced the introduction of 75 new Express trains along with 21 new passenger services,nine DEMU services and 8 MEMU services trains. Route of 39 trains to be extended while frequency of 23 trains will be increased.

The new proposed facilities include a wagon factory at Sitapali,Odisha,a rail coach factory at Palakkad,two additional new coach manufacturing units in Kutch (Gujarat) and Kolar (Karnataka); a component factory at Shyamnagar (West Bengal); new coaching terminal at Naihati,the birth place of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.

He said the budget targets freight loading of 1,025 MT in the next fiscal,55 MT more than 2011-12,while passenger earnings was expected to increase to Rs 36,200 crore.

Trivedi also proposed a 50 per cent concession in AC and sleeper class fares to patients suffering from ‘aplastic anaemia’ and ‘sickle cell anaemia’.

He also extended travel distance from 100 km to 150 km under the Izzat scheme,which was introduced by his predecessor Mamata Banerjee to enable under-privileged citizens travel with a monthly pass of Rs 35 only.

Besides,Trivedi said,Railways has taken initiative to start manufacturing specially designed coaches for differently-abled persons.

Railways has so far manufactured 2,100 such specially designed coaches and it aims to have one such coach in each mail/express train.

As part of its environment-friendly measures,Railways would set up windmill plants in Andhra Pradesh,Karnataka,Kerala,Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Besides,it would set up 200 remote railway stations as ‘green energy stations’ powered entirely by solar energy,a Green Train would be introduced and 2500 coaches would be equipped with bio toilets.

The politics of Rail Budget 2012

Trivedi said Mamata Banerjee only spoke as chief minister of a state about projects relating to Bengal,like any other Chief Minister.

Trivedi parried a question whether he agreed with his party’s policies,saying,”I don’t want to get into politics. This press conference is only about the railway budget”.

Asked whether the hike was “necessary”,he said: “You also know whether it was necessary” and said without raising resources,no modernisation or safety or other works could be carried out.

Describing the railways’ poor financial condition,he said: “Railways was getting into the ICU and I have pulled it out of ICU. You cannot have everything together.”

He said the fare hike was a minimum burden as it had not been hiked in the last eight years.

Referring to ‘Izzat’ scheme which allows poor people to travel 100 km with a Rs 25 monthly pass,he said now they can travel upto 150 km.

Railways has proposed to increase passenger fares in all classes in the budget.

“Everybody including parliamentary committees,federations and passengers all wanted fare hike. Unless you have resources you cannot undertake modernisation,” he said.

Criticising the Centre for not giving adequate budgetary support,Trivedi said: ”I had asked for Rs 45,000 crore and got only Rs 24,000 crore. How do I keep myself afloat. The input costs including fuel cost have gone up many times.”

In order to insulate Railways from the impact of fuel hike,Railways has contemplated fuel adjustment component (FAC) in the basic fare structure.

“FAC is operational in airlines. We are contemplating and it has not been implemented yet,” he said.

On freight,he said,a balancing situation had to be made between passenger and freight. Freight cannot be increased beyond a point otherwise goods transport will be shifted towards roads.”

Trivedi said managing railways is a challenge but it also gives opportunities to serve people.

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