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Rail Budget: Upper class fares may go up
July 05, 2004 15:09 IST
Last Updated: July 05, 2004 15:19 IST
Amidst a planned opposition boycott of him on the issue of "tainted" ministers, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav will present his maiden Budget in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that is widely expected to be pro-poor with no increase in second class suburban and passenger fares and freight charges.
But at the same time the upper class fares are likely to be marginally increased in the 2004-05 Budget to meet the ever increasing fuel costs even while ensuring they do not become uncompetitive, Rail Bhavan official sources said.
With most of the high-density railway lines over saturated, it is quite unlikely Lalu Prasad will not introduce many new trains, a popular measure that is adopted in most of the railway Budgets to fulfil regional aspirations.
"I will present it on July 6 whether somebody listens or not. Through Parliament, I would inform and address the Indian public...I don't care, damn care," Prasad said in an interview unmindful of the opposition threat to boycott and disrupt proceedings in Parliament.
He will present the first rail Budget of the UPA government at 1200 hours in the Lower House.
The opposition parties led by BJP have been demanding the removal of "tainted" ministers, including Lalu Prasad, from the Manmohan Singh government.
The hike in the prices of diesel itself had put a burden of over Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) on the railways, the sources said, adding ordinary passenger fares offered little room for an increase which would have to be borne by a marginal rise in upper class fares.
The marginal hike in upper class fares is not expected to be more than 5 per cent, the sources said, adding there might be rationalisation of tariffs for air-conditioned class keeping in mind seasonal rise and fall of occupancy rate in long distance trains.
The sources cited the example of reduction of fares by 10 per cent from July 15 to September 15 last year by the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Janshatabdi Express trains in order to increase the occupancy, which they claimed was a "runaway success".
This "flexi-tariff" may also be extended to air-conditioned class for long distance mail and express trains in order to push the revenue from passenger front upwards, they said.
The sources indicated that some new long distance trains and unreserved trains might be introduced to enable labourers from labour-intensive areas to travel to growth centres like Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore and Ahmedabad.
Efforts would also be made to introduce, at least on weekly basis, the 17 Sampark Kranti Express trains, which were announced by the previous NDA government.
The sources said special emphasis would be laid on lifting commodities like coal, steel, iron ore, cement and POL in order to increase revenue.
They pointed out that though the freight lifted by the railways had surpassed the target, the revenue earned through them was only marginal because of low-rated commodities.
There are indications that budgetary support from the finance ministry is likely to go up by Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) in keeping with the commitment made by the UPA government in its Common Minimum Programme of more and more public investment in infrastructure segments like railways and road transport to reach out to people in remote and other backward areas.
The railway minister is also most likely to look at the performance of the public sector units attached with the railways and might announce dismantling of those units whose performance is not upto the mark.
Safety aspect is likely to get top priority in view of the recent train mishaps, robberies and other such incidents. The corporate safety plan, introduced by the previous government, would be implemented in letter and spirit.
The minister is also likely to unfold a programme for viable commercial utilisation of unutilised railway land to mobilise additional resources.
The ministry already had in its possession a report of the Parliamentary sub-committee which had recommended commercial utilisation of unutilised railway land. It had envisaged earnings to the tune of Rs 36,000 crore (Rs 360 billion) by way of utilisation of surplus land with the railways.
The Budget might also envisage construction of 100 budget hotels at various places.