Mukul has little to offer, undoes Trivedi's budget
But will have to depend on pre-budget steps to earn more. HT reports. VOTE: Do you agree with Roy's decision to rollback fare hike?delhi Updated: Mar 23, 2012 01:33 IST
New railway minister Mukul Roy took the tried, tested and expected route on Thursday in the Lok Sabha — following his party boss Mamata Banerjee’s diktat to undo Dinesh Trivedi’s desperate attempts to avoid a deficit budget for the national carrier.
Rolling back Trivedi’s hikes in second class suburban and non-suburban and sleeper class fares, Roy only kept untouched the 15 and 30-paise-per-km fare increases in the AC-1 and AC-2 tier classes, respectively.
But since AC-1 and AC-2 passengers number just about 1.85 lakh of the 2.25 crore passengers carried by the railways in 2011, the revenue increase from this step will be just about Rs 300 crore against Trivedi’s proposal to generate about Rs 6,500 crore more from fare hikes.
Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien, however, dubbed Trivedi’s argument that fares were being raised to spend more on safety, besides bridging the revenue-expenditure gap, as “absurd”. “It appears to be gimmickry," he said.
Although Roy said in his reply to the railway budget in the Lok Sabha: “I intend to give relief to the already overburdened
common man”, he didn’t announce any concrete plans to make up for the Rs 6,500-crore shortfall. Instead, he said the railways would “mop up resources from non-conventional sources” such as public-private partnership projects.
But Roy, it seems, will have to depend on the steps that Trivedi had taken before presenting the budget — hiking freight rates by up to 28%, which is expected to generate Rs 20,000 crore a year.
He also took a loan of Rs 3,000 crore from the finance ministry to balance the accounts.
The Mamata loyalist will also have to rely on the changes made by Trivedi in the passenger booking system — increasing the capacity of wait-listed passengers by 400% and increasing the advance ticket booking period from three to four months — that might fetch an additional Rs 4,000 crore next fiscal.