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Rail Minister justifies fare hike, promises better service

Last updated on: June 23, 2014 14:10 IST

Rail Minister justifies fare hike, promises better service

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Vicky Nanjappa

“We understand that it is a bit harsh to hike the fares, but in future it will only benefit the people and this is something that we cannot play politics with,” Railway Minister D Sadananda Gowda said.

The hike in railway passenger fares has come under much criticism as it will affect the lives of common people.

An increase in rail fares has always been a contentious issue. Two years ago, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi was forced to resign after he hiked fares.

Taking into account the increasing cost of running the railways and the number of train accidents, the union government decided to hike the fares on Friday.

Although a very controversial decision, the Railway Minister D Sadananda Gowda points out that it was absolutely necessary to effect this change.

Speaking to Rediff.com, he said the previous government too had cleared this proposal knowing that it was important, but had kept it on hold. 

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Image: Hindu devotees travel in an overcrowded passenger train.
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters

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“We understand that it is a bit harsh to hike the fares, but in the future it will only benefit the people and this is something that we cannot play politics with,” he said.

“There is an urgent need to act and if things remain the way they are, then the situation in the railways would become very worrisome. There are so many pending projects that need urgent completion. People often ask why these projects are moving at a snail’s pace. The reason is simple. There are no funds. As per our records the pending projects are worth Rs 5 lakh crore, but we are able to allocate just Rs 25,000 crore. This only means that the projects are not getting the requisite funds as a result of which they are being delayed,” Gowda said.

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Photographs: Courtesy, BJP
Tags: Gowda

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Terming it as a very tough decision, Gowda said, “Give us some time, we are doing everything to ensure that the common man is not hurt. After all, we are here for the common man and we are working in their best interest. The same people in the previous government who are criticising this hike were the ones who okayed the proposal to hike the rail fare.”

Though the UPA government wanted to hike fares from May, the plan was put on hold. The proposal was not just cleared by the government but by all experts too.

“This issue should not however be about what the Congress did or what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is in the interest of the passenger in the long run. We want a world class railway system. I do not understand why this issue is being politicised. It is the safety and the comfort/concern of the people which is of utmost importance to me. You see, even I could have stalled the hike. But then what is the point in continuing to postpone something that is inevitable,” Gowda explained.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Elaborating that harsh decisions have to be taken to bring in big changes, Gowda said it is unfair to blame the new government for this when the previous government too had okayed this proposal to hike the fares.

“Today, they say that the fares are too high. We are not in some kind of undemocratic set up and this issue can be debated. There can be a healthy discussion on the issue rather than playing politics with this issue.”

Exuding confidence that Indian Railways will become a world-class entity, Gowda said, “I want the railways to make the journeys extremely comfortable for people. I want to ensure safety and for this a lot of decisions have to be taken. It will be done in the days to come. I will be touring various parts of the country by rail and will get a better understanding of things.”

 


Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Gowda

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