GUWAHATI, June 20 � The cash-strapped Indian Railways� decision to hike the railway passenger fare and freight charges drew condemnation from political parties and passengers� body in the State with most terming it as �anti-people� and calling for the North East region to be exempted from the hikes.
Dipankar Sarma, general secretary of Assam Rail Passengers Association (ARPA) told The Assam Tribune that while some hike was imperative on account of the pathetic state of Railways� finances, the hike should have been gradual and Assam and North East should have been exempted.
�North East has been deprived of facilities like Duronto trains, double-tracking, and electrification. So when we are not getting the latest facilities why should we also be made to bear the burden for revival of the Railways. First, the government should upgrade railway infrastructure and provide passenger amenities to Assam and the North East before increasing passenger and freight charges,� Sarma said.
He added, �It is true that the operational cost of the Indian Railways� has been rising in recent years and fares and freight charges have not been hiked for a while. But there should be a systematic effort to improve operational efficiency and streamline services rather than only resorting to fare hikes.�
All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) general secretary (Organization) Aminul Islam said that while fare hike was needed, the general class passengers and freight charges should have been spared.
�This will affect the common people and also further spiral inflationary pressure. There should also be efforts to run the Indian Railways� like a proper corporation and remove lobbies which are hindering the organization�s progress,� Islam said.
State Congress spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora said the hike in passengers and freight rates will cause serious inflationary pressure and burden the common people.
�Once again the Modi government has proved that all talks of Acche Deen... are merely talks while in reality the BJP is in the hands of the big corporates. Traders will take advantage of this hike in freight charges to push up prices of essential commodities,� he said.
Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) general secretary Durga Das Boro said, �This shows the difference in the words and deeds of the BJP government. Assam will suffer because of this. This will push up prices and also hurt the poor people who use the Railways as their main mode of transporation.�