Union Railway Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge has defended the increase in passenger fares and freight charges of the Railways (with effect from October 7) as inevitable and rational.

“The increase in passenger fares and freight charges is marginal when you consider the increase in diesel prices and the power drawn from States by the Railways…care has been taken to ensure that the common man is not overburdened by the hike,”

Talking to The Hindu in Gulbarga city on Saturday, Mr. Kharge pointed out that up to 390 km, passenger fares have not been increased. The monthly pass holders and Izzat pass holders have been spared the hike in passenger fares. For passengers travelling in ordinary and second-class sleeper coaches beyond 390 km, increase in fares is only Rs. 5. He said the overall increase in passenger fares was only 2 per cent and increase in freight rates only 1.75 per cent. This was against the 7 per cent increase in the prices of the diesel supplied to the Railways and substantial increase in the prices of electricity provided by different State governments to the Railways.

Terming the present increase as a “balancing act” to tide over increased expenditure on fuel and power, Mr. Kharge said strict instructions have been issued to plug leakage and cut down wasteful expenditure to improve the financial condition of the Railways and to step up revenue mobilisation.

Mr. Kharge said the proposal to constitute the Rail Tariff Authority (RTA), which has been cleared by the Cabinet, had crossed the last hurdle with the law ministry giving a green signal. “Very soon the RTA will come into existence and the future revision of railway passenger fares and freight charges will be decided periodically by the RTA.”

The Railway Minister thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Cabinet for giving approval to his proposal to increase the productivity-linked bonus to the staff working in the Railways from 73 to 78 days. “As per calculations, the Railways staff should have got 73 days productivity-linked bonus this year, but after the unions asked for bonus to be raised to more than 77 days, I took up the issue with the Prime Minister and persuaded the Cabinet to agree to the proposal to increase the productivity-linked bonus to 78 days this year,” he said.

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