Within hours of being named the railway minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal made it clear he wouldn’t shy away from hiking passenger fare to make the Indian Railways “viable” and train journeys “comfortable”.
“Fare hike can be considered in the larger objective of providing better services. I have to improve the financial and physical health of the railways,” Bansal said.
The last big hike in passenger fares was in 2002 when Nitish Kumar was at the helm.
A frequent train traveller, Bansal has identified safety and cleanliness as the top two priorities. He wants railways to be part of the new-wave of reforms and contribute more towards economic growth.
Asked if he would be reformist or a conservative minister, Bansal told HT, “I am not bogged down by any philosophy. Will take a practical view and abide by the directions of the Prime Minister.”
PM Manmohan Singh insisted on keeping the railway portfolio with the Congress as those from the other UPA partners were seen to have overlooked the financial health of the railways, one the world’s biggest employers.
As he waits form PM’s directions, Bansal emphasised: “It will definitely be made into a veritable engine of India’s economic growth. It has a huge potential to contribute to the government’s reforms agenda and the country’s growth story.”
He said he would ensure that every region and state get its due.