Trivedi’s rail fare hike reasonable, say economists

March 15th, 2012 - 12:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, March 15 (IANS) Notwithstanding severe criticism from his own Trinamool Congress that may cost him his job, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi has got a thumbs up for his budget from economists who say the decision to increase the rail fare was “inevitable and reasonable”.

Some, however, said the proposed increase in passenger fare should not have been applicable to second class tickets.

“The increase in passenger fares has been proposed almost after a decade. For the last 10 years, the rate of inflation had been high. So the outgo of the railway was increasing. I think the hike in fare was inevitable and is reasonable,” Pulapre Balakrishnan, professor of economics at the Centre for Development Studies, told IANS over phone from Thiruvananthapuram.

Sutanu Bhattacharya of Kalyani University seconded Balakrishnan.

“More revenue generation is required for the railways by increasing passenger fairs for improving its financial health. Due to the populist policies, earlier railway ministers did not go ahead with the harsh measures. I congratulate Trivedi for taking the bold decision,” Bhattacharya said.

He also praised the 61-year-old minister for emphasising on strengthening safety. But the economist said not enough provision has been made for safety projects.

The minister said he would be aiming to reduce the operating ratio from current 95 percent to 84 percent in 2012-13.

Ajitava Raychaudhuri, professor of economics at Jadavpur University, also supported the proposed fare hike, but said the escalation should have been made from the sleeper class to AC class, not for all classes.

“The passenger fare hike from sleeper class to AC class is reasonable. But I am depressed that the hike will also apply to sleeper class, as the comfort level for passengers there is very low. Fare hike in second class without increasing the amenities is questionable,” Raychaudhuri stated.

During his budget speech in the Lok Sabha Wednesday, Trivedi had said: “I am asking an extra two paise per km on suburban and ordinary second class. Similarly, an increase of three paise per km for mail and express trains.

“For sleeper class, I am asking only 5 paise (increase) and for AC chair car and III tier, only 10 paise per km, and for AC II tier 15 paise per km and AC I class by 30 paise per km.”

Accordingly, over a 100-km run, the fares will go up by Rs.2 on suburban and ordinary II class trains, Rs.5 for sleeper class, Rs.10 for AC chair car and III tier, Rs.15 for AC II tier and Rs.30 for AC first class.

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, long opposed to any exercise burdening average travellers, has already demanded a roll back and called for the minister’s resignation.

“We will not accept the fare hike. We will not allow the fare hike to happen for the sake of the common man…We are totally against it. I can assure you this,” Banerjee said.

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