(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 03, 2013
Rail Budget: More Burdens on People
Bureau of the Communist Party of
THE railway budget has added more burdens on the people travelling in trains. The railway minister has made the false claim that railway fares are not being increased. After increasing passenger fares by 20 per cent just two months before the railway budget, the present budget provisions will definitely increase the fares further. A fuel surcharge has been imposed which will result in raising the fares twice a year. There has been an increase in the reservation, cancellation and tatkal charges and fares of superfast trains.
The five per cent increase in freight charges across the board will have a cascading effect on inflation.
The budget has proposed to have an independent Rail Tariff Authority (RTA) which will decide on freight and tariff structure in the future. This will open the way for continuous increase in freight and passenger fares.
The railway budget has made no serious effort to overcome the financial crisis affecting the Indian Railways. The crisis was deliberately created in the past three years by enhancing the number of projects, spending on advertisements, foundation laying ceremonies and other activities. The railway minister has scaled down targets for the new lines, gauge conversion, allocation and acquisition of railway stock in order to reduce the operating ratio. The annual plan target was not achievable as the Public Private Partnership (PPP) has been a failure. Not a single investment has been there from the PPP model in the railways. The target for freight has been increased but the target for acquisition of wagons has been reduced by 2000, making it difficult to achieve the freight target. This has been clearly done to reduce the operating ratio.
Though there has been a serious increase in the train accidents, there are no proposals to make rail travel accident free and safe in the future.
The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) demands that the increase in fares through various means and the rise in freight charges be rescinded.
Through a separate statement on the same day, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) denounced the railway budget 2013-14 which reflects gross inconsistencies and contradictions camouflaged in deceptive postures.
The CITU statement recalled that just one month before the budget the Railway Ministry had hiked the passenger fares by 21 per cent to be able to tell the nation that he has not burdened the common people through this budget. But still the minister did not spare the passenger fare wholly in the budget, putting indirect burdens on the people. The CITU said the increases in reservation charges and fuel surcharges would have an impact on the passenger fares while the fuel charge adjustment policy, indicated by the minister, has kept the door open for interim fare hikes through executive order. Further, the programme for putting in place a so called independent regulatory authority, reiterated by the minister in his budget speech, makes clear the evil design to completely deregulate railway fares in the days to come, as was done in case of petrol or diesel prices.
Secondly, the CITU said, the fuel surcharge hike and five per cent 5hike in freight rate will fuel the already high inflationary pressure, further increasing the burdens on the people.
The budget stressed on promoting the PPP model in many areas of maintenance and development work, leading to backdoor privatisation of various services.
The budget targeted to achieve an operating ratio to 87 per cent. But the resource mobilisation roadmap, as reflected in the budget, clearly shows that such a so called improvement in the operating ratio achieved by scaling down the expenditure budgeted earlier, which will finally affect the revenues as well as services. In fact the figure of revised estimate of the previous budget, and the downward revision being undertaken by the present ministry, clearly reveal that such strategy of scaling down of budgeted expenditure on various counts including capital expenditure will continue in the current year.
The CITU asserted that inconsistencies and contradictions galore in the 2013-14 budget as well. It asked: how the ambitious target on goods traffic and freight earnings can be met, when investment for procurement of wagons and wagon manufacturing is being scaled down as reflected in budget statement? How could the target for passenger traffic as well as revenues be met when passenger coach and locomotive acquisition plan is scaled down? The only avenue, which remained untold, will be to further increase the freight charge and passenger fare.
Saying that the railway budget 2013-14, drawn within the neo-liberal policy framework, has nothing to offer to the people except increased burdens and deterioration in amenities, the CITU has urged upon the working people to denounce the budget through countrywide protests.