The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India have criticised the proposal in the Railway budget to increase passenger fares, and the hike in freight charges for commodities such as coal, fertilizers, grains, steel and cement , which was notified earlier this month.

The CPI(M) Polit Bureau said the increase in fares of second class and sleeper class in express trains would affect millions of rural migrant workers, employees and small entrepreneurs, who frequently travelled thousands of km away from their hometowns.

The around 20 per cent hike in freight charges would also have an inflationary impact, the party said in a statement.

“The anti-people nature of the budget is further exposed by the addition of a ‘fuel adjustment component' to passenger fares. This implies a periodic increase in fares in tandem with the hike in fuel prices.”

Mr. Trivedi was imposing these burdens on people to cover up his inefficiency that led to the bankruptcy of the Railways, it said. The budget exercise had suffered from a steady erosion of credibility over the past few years, with plans going haywire. The operating ratio (the sum spent to earn Rs. 100) for 2011-12 was budgeted at 91.1 per cent. Now, it went up to 95 per cent.

“Such a sharp deterioration of the financial situation of the Railways under the UPA-II, from surplus attained in the previous government, requires an explanation from the Prime Minister,” it said.

As for safety and modernisation, the party said what had been offered were myriad committees and their recommendations, but they never seemed to take off. A feasibility study for high-speed rail was dragging on for the past two years; nor was the freight corridor project making any progress. All this reflected poorly on the Railways, which had become incapable of delivering the goods.

The CPI(M) urged people to protest against the “anti-people” budget.

Overambitious: CPI

Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the budget was overambitious, without indicating from where the resources would come and depending as it did on variables like the increase in passenger and freight traffic.

Mr. Trivedi was working towards dismantling the Ministry through proposals to create separate authorities for station modernisation, safety improvement and signalling.

Expressing concern at the alleged attempt to change the existing safety set-up, he said the Minister was undermining the Railway Board.

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