How will railways make up for Rs 4,000 cr revenue loss?

While railway minister claims he intends to give relief to the already over-burdened common man, CPI(M) wants government to explain the impact of the revenue loss

Stating that it impacted the poor, new Railway Minister Mukul Roy yesterday rolled back the fare hike in suburban and non-suburban, sleeper, air-conditioned chair car and air-conditioned three-tier classes announced by his predecessor Dinesh Trivedi in the railway budget.

"I intend to give relief to the already over-burdened common man by not effecting any increase in these classes," said Roy, replying to the debate on the rail budget in the Lok Sabha. He said the proposal to increase fare by 2 paise per km, 3 paise per km and 5 paise per km in second class suburban and non-suburban and sleeper class is a huge drain on the pocket of the masses.

"The increase in the fare of air-conditioned chair car and air-conditioned three-tier, which is now patronised by the middle class, is also quite severe," Roy said.He, however, retained the fare hike for the air-conditioned first and second class by 15 paise per km and 30 paise per km, respectively, announced by Trivedi, who had proposed 10 paise per km each for air-conditioned chair car and air-conditioned three- tier.

'Major setback'
Official sources in the ministry said the roll back of fare hike was a setback to the reform process. The railways will now have to forgo revenue worth Rs 4,000 crore due to Roy's announcement, they said. "We would have to look at other means to cover up the gap � it is a set back to the reform process," a senior official said on condition of anonymity. The fare hike had infuriated Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who immediately replaced Dinesh Trivedi with loyalist Roy.

The former railway minister said he was "nobody" to comment on the roll back of his proposed hike. "You cannot keep on increasing freight charges and you cannot keep on subsidising the fare. I do not have any comments to make, as long as the people of the country who travel by rail are safe. And as long as railway is an efficient service and it can add to the GDP, I'm happy," Trivedi said.

"I'm nobody to comment because today, I'm not involved in the railways... it will not be fair to say anything," he added. Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said he supported the roll back in the sleeper class but wanted the government to explain how it would impact the railways. "We support that the sleeper class fare is not increased but what will be its effect on the railways, government should explain this," Yechury said.

Reverse gear
In other reversal of announcements made by Trivedi, the new rail minister put on hold his proposal of setting up an expert panel to examine whether there should be an independent tariff regulatory authority. He also scrapped Trivedi's proposal to expand the Railway Board by creating a post of a member (Public-Private Partnership).

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