The announcement of a hike in railway fares has evoked a mixed response, with the Left and the BJP slamming the decision, while the Congress and the industry backed it.

Calling the hike “unjustified,” the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded that the government withdraw the increase in all categories except in the top two classes of AC first class and AC two tier.

It accused the Railway Minister of showing contempt for Parliament by announcing the hike just a month before the Railway budget is to be placed before Parliament and asked all its units to organise protests against the “new burden being imposed on the people.”

In a similar vein, senior leaders of the Communist Party of India Gurudas Dasgupta and D. Raja termed the decision anti-people and called for a rollback.

Mr. Dasgupta criticised the government for adding to the burden on the people who were already reeling under increasing prices of essential commodities. “It is a government which cannot perform,” he said. According to Mr. Raja the railways should have found other ways of raising resources instead of further burdening the common man.

The former president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rajnath Singh, said the decision to increase the fare just before the Budget Session of Parliament “exposes the anti-people and anti-democratic face of the UPA government.”

He felt that the “massive” fare hike should have come in small doses.

India Inc., however, welcomed the fare hike decision on the ground that it was needed to bring the railways back on track. Director-general of the Confederation of Indian Industries Chandrajit Banerjee said: “This marginal increase is going to be important in helping the railways to reduce its losses. Also, this will lead to more safety and better services for the passengers.”

The president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry Rajkumar Dhoot too endorsed the move, saying: “The railway infrastructure was in dire straits… to make railways a viable and growing enterprise, the government should not shy away from increasing the tariff as and when necessary.”

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said the fare hike was inevitable. He was, however, evasive on whether the Congress president Sonia Gandhi was consulted.

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