CPI-M blasts rail fare hikes

March 14th, 2012 - 9:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Wednesday denounced the proposed rail fare hike, saying it will “adversely impact millions of rural migrant workers” and others.

The CPI-M “strongly protested” the across the board hike in passenger fares announced in the railway budget along with the increase in freight charges for most commodities.

Fares for second class and sleeper class travel in express trains have been hiked by Rs.3 and Rs.5 per 100 km respectively.

“This will adversely impact millions of rural migrant workers, employees and small entrepreneurs who have to frequently travel thousands of kilometers away from their hometowns,” it said.

“The around 20 percent hike in freight charges will have an inflationary impact. The anti-people nature of the railway budget is further exposed by the announcement of adding a ‘fuel adjustment component’ to passenger fares, which implies periodic increase in rail fares in tandem with the hike in fuel prices.

“The railway minister is imposing these burdens on the people in order to cover up for its own inefficiencies, which has led to the bankruptcy of the Indian Railways.

“The railway budget making exercise has suffered from a steady erosion of credibility over the past few years, with budgetary targets going haywire in the course of the year.

“The Operating Ratio of the Railways (how much is spent in order to earn 100 rupees) for 2011-12 was budgeted at 91.1 percent last year. Now it is gone up to 95 percent, exposing the massive inefficiency of the railways.

“Such a sharp deterioration of the financial situation of the railways under the UPA-II, from a position of surplus attained under the previous government, demands an explanation from the prime minister.

“With such massive overshooting of budgetary targets, the claims made in the railway budget of improving the Operating Ratio to less than 85 percent in 2012-13 and to less than 75 percent by the end of 12th five year plan (2017) cannot be taken seriously.

“The glaring inefficiency of the Railways can be seen from the fact that it has missed its freight loading target by 23 million tones this year.

“This under-achievement is a repeat of last year and is inexplicable at a time when the economy has been growing at 7-8 percent.

“There is a shortfall of over Rs.2,000 crore in gross traffic receipts from what was budgeted last year.”

The CPI-M also raised questions about several proposals that Trivedi’s predecessor and now West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made a year ago.

These included “50 world class stations”, “six bottling plants for fresh water”, “five sports academies”, “522 hospitals and diagnostic centres including 40 multi-speciality hospitals”, “50 Kendriya Vidyalayas”, seven new coach and loco factories, five new wagon factories, rail axle factories and so on, it said.

“The silence or obfuscation of the present railway minister on these promises confirm that these budget announcements in 2010 and 2011 were all gimmicks and a fraud on the Indian people.

“These false promises are now being utilized by the present minister to go for largescale privatization through projects like ‘Indian Railway Station Development Corp’, ‘Logistics Corporation’ in the PPP mode.”

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