Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, an ardent follower of populist politics — has reportedly refused to allow her partyman, railway minister Dinesh Trivedi to raise passenger fares in the upcoming rail budget.
A unique proposal of Trivedi — to rationalise the fares in multiples of Rs10 and adjust them to the closest round figure — was shot down by Banerjee on Tuesday.
According to an estimate, the scheme could have generated an additional revenue of almost Rs2,500 crore for the cash-strapped railways.
A disheartened Trivedi today privately informed some of his cabinet colleagues that his party is opposed to any tinkering with the passenger fare. Trinamool Congress sources described the meeting between Trivedi and Banerjee as a ‘major showdown’. Banerjee reportedly perceived the railways’ proposal as “an idea of Montek Singh Ahluwalia (plan panel deputy chairperson)” and warned Trivedi not to pursue such issues.
During her three and a half year tenure as the railway minister— during NDA and UPA—Banerjee never raised the passenger fare.Trivedi’s argument was that the booking clerks at the ticket counters are often unable to return the exact changes and passengers are left with no option but to pay the additional R2-3. The proposal, according to Trivedi, would have solved the problem of changes and also benefited the railway coffers.
Earlier, Trivedi had ruled out any hike in general and sleeper class tickets to give relief to poor despite being under pressure to raise the fares after a gap of almost 10 years.
Railways also had a plan to introduce a flexible fare hike in sleeper and 3AC, linking it to the fluctuations in the fuel prices.
While the political masters refused to increase fare to generate additional, the operating ratio (expenses incurred to earn Rs100) jumped from 90.5% in 2008-09 to 94.6% in 2010-11. The 2011-12 Budget Estimates predicts the OR at 91.1%.
Trivedi had recently asked for financial help from the finance ministry but finance minister Pranab Mukherjee asked him to raise resources internally.