Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Thursday ruled out a rollback of the rise in rail fares even as he denied there was any political reason behind the announcement made a few weeks ahead of the Railway budget.
Talking to reporters, Mr. Bansal said there would be no fare hike in the budget. He shot down questions as to whether 2014 general election was behind the timing of the announcement. Elections were far away, he stressed.
The new proposal was based on the same formula on which fares were hiked in the 2012-13 budget, but with an additional burden of 20 to 25 per cent to make up for the loss the railways had to suffer on account of the withdrawal of fare rates for the second and sleeper classes.
Safety and cleanliness
Mr. Bansal said demands for safety and cleanliness had to be kept in mind while taking financial decisions. “That is now our responsibility after the present exercise.”
While expecting to rake in Rs. 1,200 crore over the next 10 weeks, he noted that if the proposals presented by the then Railway Minister, Dinesh Trivedi, had been accepted, the railways would have gained a lot in the last 10 months. The fares were withdrawn and Mr. Trivedi lost his job at the behest of West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee.
Evading a question whether Mr. Trivedi’s proposals were rolled back due to political reasons, Mr. Bansal underlined the importance of politics but said there was need to rise above it at times.
The Minister said results would show in the near future given the fact that the Plan size was downgraded further by about Rs.9,000 crore from Rs.60,100 crore to Rs.51,000 crore. The rise in fares was likely to yield an additional revenue of about Rs.6,500 crore annually.
He admitted that there would be administrative problems in realising the rate difference from passengers, including those destined for the Kumbh Mela, who had booked their tickets before January 22 when the new rates come into effect.
To ensure easy availability of tickets to genuine passengers, a better server and a new system for booking tickets would be put in place soon.