The train fare hike announced by railway minister Pawan Bansal might have come after a gap of 10 years but the Congress seems to be very confident that it will not have any adverse affect on UPA's poll prospect in 2014.
"We have a duty to provide hassle-free journey to rail passengers. When we provide them better services and also ensure their safety, I am sure people will vote give us more votes… we will be voted back to power," Bansal told reporters on Wednesday.
Asked if the move was politically expedient, he said, "There are some responsibilities which are above electoral politics."
Soon after taking charge in October 2012, Bansal had indicated that train fares would be revised to put the railways' financial health in order. Ever since, the UPA came to power the railway portfolio has been with coalition partners, who in an attempt to promote regional political interest, had desisted from increasing the fare. The populist stand had virtually put the railways in the red.
"We have reached a position where the only option to meet our day-to-day expenses and ensure safety of passenger is hike in fares. The hike had become imperative as a lack of revision in the last 10 years has had a telling effect on the finances of the railways," the rail minister said.
Responding to why the hike was not announced earlier, Bansal said, "I was a little late in finalising the revision… was new to the job."
He said the railways' input costs have increased by 10.6 % per annum between 2004-05 and 2010-11, whereas fares remained stagnant or were reduced in lower classes. "It has affected our internal resource generation. We had to scale down our annual plan size from Rs. 61,000 crore to Rs. 51,000 crore in 2012-13," said Bansal.