The NDA government Friday raised the railway passenger fares by 14.2 percent in all classes and freight rates by 6.5 percent effective from June 25, a decision strongly slammed by opposition parties who termed the move anti-poor and one that would lead to inflation.
The new passenger fares and freight rates aimed at mobilising resources for the cash-strapped Indian Railways come just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned countrymen to get ready for some “bitter medicine” needed to revive the economy and ahead of the full railway budget next month.
The railway ministry said the revision of rates was done as part of the interim budget presented by the previous UPA-II government, but not implemented because of the 10-phase Lok Sabha elections spread over April-May.
The move attracted criticism.
“The increase in railway fares and rates means increase in the cost in transport of food items, which in turn will lead to inflation in food prices,” Congress general secretary Ajay Maken said.
He criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the increase, saying this defied his tall promises on controlling price rise.
“While in opposition, he (Modi) criticised the UPA government for price rise and now he has taken a complete U-turn and his government has come up with this decision,” he said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa termed the hike “worrisome”, saying it would fuel inflation. She demanded its withdrawal.
In a statement, Jayalalithaa said the hike would affect the poor and middle classes of society. She said the decision to hike the rates makes one wonder whether the new Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is following the same policies of the earlier Congress-led government.
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and former railway minister Lalu Prasad claimed the Modi government wanted to hand over the railways to the private sector.
“This is the first major blow to the people by the Modi government. Such a hike is unprecedented, whenever BJP comes, they bring along price rise,” the RJD leader said.
Janata Dal-United leader and former Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who also served as railway minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government, said: “This is no ordinary hike, this is a huge hike. They (the government) are setting a wrong precedent by hiking fares when parliament session is coming.”
Criticising the hike, the Trinamool Congress said the step was taken without “bothering about parliament” and it would “overburden” the common man.
“Is this a Super Rail Budget before Rail Budget?” twitted Trinamool spokesperson Derek O’Brien.
“Not bothering about Parl. The common man already burdened will be overburdened,” O’Brien said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Brinda Karat said it will increase the burden on people.
“This is going to be a huge burden on people when they are already battling relentless price rise,” she said.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik described the increase in rail fares as anti-middle class and anti-poor.
“Passenger fare hike across the board is going to affect passengers at large and more particularly poor people travelling in sleeper class,” he said.