NEW DELHI, March 14 � Biting the bullet, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi today proposed a stiff across-the- board hike in passenger fares to net Rs 4,000 crore extra a year in his budget but his proposals were immediately attacked by his own party Trinamool Congress that could trigger a political crisis, reports PTI.
Breaking an 8-year populist trend of not touching passenger fares, the Budget for 2012-13 effected a hike in suburban and non-suburban fares, ordinary second class mail and express fares, sleeper class, 1st class, all AC class travel and Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duranto and Janshatabdi trains.
Leaving the freight rates untouched, the Minister claimed that there is no steep hike in the fares but he effected the increase through a sleight-of-hand by raising the fares according to distance.
Just after the Minister completed his 100-minute speech in the Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress, which has already moved amendments to the President�s address, stoutly opposed the hike and demanded its roll-back.
It was not clear whether the party would move cut motions to the budget. If a cut motion is adopted, it amounts to defeat and the government may have to go.
A delegation of the party MPs met Trivedi and placed the demand. TMC Parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said the party cannot support passenger fare hike which was anti common man.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the budget as forward looking with the emphasis on safety and modernisation while Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee called it positive.
While a suburban second class travel up to 150 km will cost Rs 5 more, it will be an additional Rs 94 by second class for a distance of 3,062 km between New Delhi and Trivandrum. For the same distance, the increase in the AC chair-car fare will be Rs 314 and for AC 1st Class it will be Rs 933.
For travel by Rajdhani between New Delhi and Ernakulam (Kochi) - a distance of 2,950 km, the increase will be Rs 937 by AC 1st Class, Rs 466 for AC 2-Tier, Rs 306 for AC 3-Tier and Rs 217 for AC chair car.
Passenger fares have been increased by 2 paisa per km to 30 paisa per km depending on distance and class of travel. The price of platform ticket will go up from Rs 3 to Rs 5 and fares have been rounded-off to the next nearest Rs 5. Tickets priced upto Rs 6 will become Rs 5 and above Rs 6 will become Rs 10. Addressing a press conference, Trivedi defended the hike saying it was a �conscious decision� keeping in mind the best interest of Indian Railways and the country.
�No comment,� was his reply to questions on his party�s opposition to the hike and whether he would resign. �Political parties have their own philosophy,� he said about the hike adding, �we take the decisions with full responsibility�.
Maintaining that the party or its leadership was not aware of the decision to hike the passenger fares, he said ever since he took over the ministry, all the sections he had come across including the media, committees and federations had urged for raising the fares.
He said for the last eight years there has been no increase in fares while freight rates have been hiked and he had sought to bring in a balance by his decision to raise passenger fares.
He also cited inadequate budgetary support of Rs 24,000 crore against a requirement of Rs 45,000 crore.
Passenger fares have been increased by 2 paisa per km for suburban and ordinary second class; 3 paisa per km for mail/express second class; 5 paisa per km for sleeper class; 10 paisa per km for AC Chair Car, AC 3 Tier and First Class; 15 paisa per km for AC 2 Tier and 30 paisa per km for AC 1st.
The hikes work out to be 10-15 per cent in most of the cases and 20-25 per cent in many others.
Describing Indian Railways as passing through difficult times, Trivedi said gross traffic receipt this year at Rs 1,03,917 crore were short of budget estimates by Rs 2,322 crore.
For next fiscal, he projected a 27.6 per cent higher tariff receipts at Rs 1,32,552 crore and a passenger growth of 5.4 per cent.
He pegged the annual plan outlay 2012-13 at record high of Rs 60,100 crore, of which Rs 18,050 crore would come from internal resources of the railways.