Staff Reporter

‘Rationalise hidden charges’

Coimbatore: The Coimbatore Consumer Cause (CCC) has appealed to the Government and Parliament to consider rationalisation of hidden charges in railway fares, in the current session of Parliament, before the Supreme Court intervenes in mid-April by taking up the case filed by the CCC.

The Secretary of CCC, K. Kathirmathiyon, in a memorandum, pointed out that the Supreme Court of India that took up the petition by the consumer body had observed and expressed hope that Parliament would examine the issue during its current session and posted the petition for mid-April for the next hearing.

In the light of the said observations of the Supreme Court, Mr.Kathirmathiyon in a memorandum pointed out that the Government was encouraging transparency in all matters of its governance.

For absolute transparency, Government had even enacted a progressive Act – Right to Information Act. On the contrary, the Railways was adopting differing hidden ways and means to collect more money from passengers by levying charges in different forms over and above the fare, through administrative orders.

The organisation had been pointing out these “unethical collections” for several years. The Parliamentary Committee on Railways had also criticized the Railways for the same.

After introduction of Tatkal scheme in 1997, just for collection of more fare from the public, it was modified in the year 2004 and onwards through administrative orders.

Many trains were converted into Super Fast trains. Unfortunately there were no norms or definition for Express and Super Fast train regarding facilities, number of stops, minimum distance, speed etc.

In two years alone, 198 trains were converted into ‘Super Fast’.

Extra reservation charges were collected for tickets booked in other stations than the boarding station through administrative orders.

Safety charges/ developments charges were collected continuously without any cut off period.

Even in the recent budget, it was announced that there was no increase in tariff for goods & parcels.

But from press reports, it is learnt that the goods tariff was increased through different name from March 1, 2008. For example, the tariff for vegetables was increased from Rs.55 to Rs.120 a quintal.

Similarly the tariff for sending a motorbike from Madurai to Madras was increased from Rs.145 to Rs.435.

Since no increase in goods tariff was announced in the Budget, it could be presumed that all such increases were only through administrative order using different names.

Through administrative orders, converting trains and providing different names for goods/ parcels services, extending Tatkal facility, collection of additional reservation charges etc. were being done only for additional revenue which was illegal and not permissible.

The present form of collection of hidden charges was totally unfair, unjust and unethical, particularly for a Government Department whose services are a monopoly.