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'Indian Railways was headed for ICU, I pulled it out'

Last updated on: March 15, 2012 09:57 IST

'Indian Railways was headed for ICU, I pulled it out'

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Business Standard

In an interview with Business Standard, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi says if there is no rise in fares, the Indian Railways would come to a grinding halt.

Edited excerpts:

You are heading a government that claims to belong to the aam aadmi. Yet, you have increased fares.

Wherever I went, whoever I spoke to, everyone told me, 'If you can't meet your expenses, why don't you raise fares?'

We have seen so many accidents.

Even passengers want better safety.

And, how much is the increase?

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi (C) waves as he leaves his office to present the Railway Budget.
Photographs: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

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'Indian Railways was headed for ICU, I pulled it out'

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Only a two or three-paise rise per kilometre (km).

For journeys of up to 35 km, the increase is Rs 2. You don't even get Rs 2 back in change sometimes.

And, the Izzat service has been increased.

So, there is virtually no increase.

The philosophy of the increase was there must be minimum burden.

Fares haven't been increased for eight years.

Fuel prices have gone up so much.

Compared to road transport, rail is still cheaper.

If I hadn't done this, believe me, the Indian Railways would have come to a grinding halt. It was headed for the ICU, and I have pulled it out.

I begged the government for gross budgetary support to avoid raising fares.

But Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) alone went towards national projects like the development of the railways in Kashmir.

Where was the money?

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: A girl peers out from a carriage at Nizamuddin Railway Station.
Photographs: Getty Images

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'Indian Railways was headed for ICU, I pulled it out'

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How much revenue would you raise?

One component is the minimal increase in fares.

The other is rounding off fares.

From this alone, I can raise Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion).

All this entails is ensuring the government gets the loose change that was neither going to customers, nor to the government, but somewhere else.

You party colleague, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, has said the party is opposed to the rise in fares.

The party has every right to its philosophy.

I did not take my leader, Mamata Banerjee, or the party into confidence.

I drafted the budget with a full sense of responsibility.

I did what was best for the country.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: Workers load mail onto a train at Nizamuddin Railway Station.
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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'Indian Railways was headed for ICU, I pulled it out'

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You have set up a committee to link fuel price increases to rail fares. Have you finalised how this would work?

It is logical to assume when fuel costs rise, fares should also rise, and when they fall, so should the fares.

The committee would study the feasibility of this.

When you are part of a coalition government, there are political compulsions.

It is very difficult to take decisions on fares objectively.

You had big plans for revenue from real estate. What have you done on that front?

The Indian Railways Station Development Corporation would redevelop 100 stations in partnership with the private sector.

It would manage the redevelopment and maintenance of stations in the same manner as airports.

The new body is expected to develop a suitable revenue model over the next five years.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: A porter carries luggage of a passenger at a railway station in Kolkata.
Photographs: Reuters

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'Indian Railways was headed for ICU, I pulled it out'

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Will this involve a user fee similar to that in airports?

No, I don't think that would be necessary.

Your party wants a rollback on the rise in fares.

Whether a rollback is necessary or not, you all know.

Passengers complain about cockroaches and mice in compartments.

How can standards be maintained unless you pay for these?

And, where would this money come from?

If you roll back the fares, you have to roll back safety, too.

I have done my duty. . . now I leave it to God.

I am not afraid of him. He is my friend.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: Railway labourers repair a railway track after it was damaged by protesters at Ghagwal.
Photographs: Amit Gupta/Reuters
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'Indian Railways was headed for ICU, I pulled it out'

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How can you turn against common people? Your own party has disowned you.

Arrey zara pyar sey boliye... I have clearly said Mamata had no knowledge of the budget. It was solely my decision.

Like other chief ministers, she has the authority to criticise my budget.

But there can be no interference.

It is wrong to say the Railway Budget was written at the Writers Building.

You did raise revenue through freight.

Every time you cannot keep raising revenue through freight alone.

If you do this, there would come a time when freight operators would bid you goodbye.

And, everyone wants halts, double and triple lines.

How are we going to pay for this? You have to be reasonable.

If you don't want the railways to be safe, I'm happy to let everyone travel for free.

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage

Image: Workers take a break from unloading cargo from incoming trains at Nizamuddin Railway Station.
Photographs: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

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The system was being damaged.

If we had continued down this road, we would have faced the same situation that Air India faces today.

All fund balances were either turning negative, or would have turned negative in three years.

We had to cope with the payout as a result of the 6th Pay Commission.

The pension fund had just Rs 5.22 crore (Rs 52.2 million).

How would I have paid the growing number of retiring employees?

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Union Budget 2012-13: Complete coverage



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