The hike in rail passenger fares for second class suburban and non-suburban, Sleeper, AC Chair Car and AC 3-tier was today rolled back with the new Railway Minister Mukul Roy dubbing it as a "huge drain" on the pocket of masses.
He, however, kept untouched the increase of 15 paise per km and 30 paise per km respectively in passenger fares in AC 2-tier and AC-I announced by his predecessor Dinesh Trivedi in the Railway Budget only last week.
Replying to the debate on the Railway Budget in the Lok Sabha, Roy also put on hold Trivedi's proposal of setting up a committee to examine whether there should be an independent tariff regulatory authority.
He scrapped Trivedi's proposal to expand the Railway Board. Roy, who was replying to the debate just a day after taking over as Railway Minister, 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."
"Similarly, increase in the fare of AC Chair Car and AC 3-tier, which is now patronised by the middle class, is also quite severe. "I intend to give relief to the already over burdened common man by not effecting any increase in these classes."
Trivedi had proposed 10 paise per km each for AC Chair Car and AC 3-tier. Roy, however, did not refer to AC 2-tier and AC-I class for which his predecessor had proposed hike of 15 paise per km and 30 paise per km.
Referring to the rollback of hike in train fares announced earlier, Roy said "many members have expressed anguish over the proposal to hike passenger fares that would impact the aam aadmi."
"The concern of the common man is over-riding, even if it means biting the bullet of a different kind, the impact of the fare hike on the aam aadmi is huge," he said.
After Roy's 20-minute speech, the House passed the vote on account and the relevant Appropriation Bills, as well as a resolution to adopt recommendations of the second report of the Railway Convention Committee by voice vote.
He said the Railways would launch an "aggressive drive to mop up resources from non-conventional sources" like public- private partnership (PPP) projects would be carried out on a fast-track.
Advertising, as a source, of revenue was not being fully explored, he said, adding that there would be "a focused approach"
on using the vacant land and airspace with the railways to raise resources. Noting the concerns expressed by almost all members over rail safety, he said in order to avoid accidents at unmanned railway crossings, he would pursue the commitment to "eliminate" such crossings.
Major initiatives would be launched to construct overbridges, revamp telecommunications, rolling stock and terminals, the Minister said.
Maintaining that members had expressed "deep anguish" over cleanliness and hygiene at stations and in trains, he said these issues would be on his top priority after safety.
Regarding filling up of vacancies, Roy said all posts relating to safety, especially unmanned crossings, would be filled.
Noting that the recruitment of over one lakh people was "already on", Roy said "we will wipe out all backlog for weaker sections of society, including physically disabled".
Trivedi, whom he replaced as the Railway Minister, was not present in the House despite being a Lok Sabha member.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also not present. Observing that he had assumed charge only recently, he assured the House that the demands made by the members, including for new trains, would be implemented taking into account financial and other constraints. Sharing the concern voiced by members over the standard of cleanliness in Indian Railways, he said cleanliness and hygiene are the most important aspects for him after safety.