New Delhi: The government yesterday raised the railway passenger fares by 14.2 percent in all classes and freight charge by 6.5 percent.
The new passenger fare and freight rates will come into effect from June 25, the railway ministry said in a release.
The ministry said the revision of rates was done as part of interim budget presented by the previous government, but was not implemented because of the elections.
The release said the annual expenditure of the ministry could not be met unless the revised rates as finalised by previous government is implemented.
The steep hike in train fares is the first dose of the bitter medicine that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said was essential to revive India’s economy.
The move provoked criticism from opposition parties who mocked the ruling BJP’s election slogan — Achche Din Aane Wale Hain (good times are ahead).”
The hike in passenger fares could bring nearly `60bn to the Railways, which needs massive funds to upgrade its infrastructure after years of low investment and populist policies.
Among the first to hit out at the Narendra Modi government was Bihar politician Lalu Prasad Yadav, who left train fares untouched during his tenure as railway minister in 2004-2009.
“Acche din. Acche din. The BJP has fired its first salvo at the poor people of this country. Whenever the BJP comes to power, they try and get a few people all the advantage,” Yadav said, demanding a rollback.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted, “Ab ki bar Double Speak Sarkar” and posted a letter that Modi had written to then prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2012 against a hike in freight rates by the UPA.
Hiking train fares is an unpopular decision that has always been viewed as politically risky, the reason why most Railway Ministers have steered clear of it.
Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said he had only taken forward what the previous government had decided. “ Ten percent increase in passenger fare and five percent increase in freight was made in the interim budget but the previous government withheld it,” he said.
The previous Congress-led UPA government had left passenger fares unchanged in the interim budget in February, just before the national election.
Indian Railways, which manages the world’s largest network of trains and transports an estimated 25 million each day, is currently facing a severe financial crunch with passenger subsidy touching `260bn.
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 in a statement here.
“Hike in freight charges will further aggravate inflation and lead to price rise affecting people at large. This is anti-middle class and anti-poor people move,” he said.Agencies