This Article is From Jun 21, 2014

Rail Fare Hike: Protests All Over, Parties Demand Rollback

Protest in Delhi by Congress workers against the rail fare hike

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government's decision to hike train fares by 14 per cent continues to face more criticism from political parties.

M Karunanidhi, the chief of the DMK, said today that the fare hike will badly affect poor and middle classes. "The BJP government's approach is not any different from UPA's," he said.

Congress workers protested against the hike in Delhi's Janakpuri area. Led by Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Lovely, nearly 400 protesters tried to break police barriers set up there to control the protests.

The police had to use water cannon to disperse the protesters who had blocked the main road.

Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party workers are protesting in Varanasi, demanding immediate rollback of the fare hike.

Demonstrations were also held in Allahabad where angry protesters blocked a railway track. Scores of flag-waving protesters shouted slogans demanding an immediate rollback in the fares, which held up rail traffic for nearly an hour.

After the government announced the decision yesterday, it provoked criticism from Opposition parties who mocked the ruling BJP's election slogan - "Achche Din Aane Wale Hain (good times are ahead)."

Among the first to hit out at the Narendra Modi government was Bihar politician Lalu Prasad Yadav, who left train fares untouched during his tenure as railway minister in 2004-2009.

"Acche din. Acche din. The BJP has fired its first salvo at the poor people of this country. Whenever the BJP comes to power, they try and get a few people all the advantage," Mr Yadav said, demanding a rollback. (Also read: Nitish Kumar Flays Modi Government For Rail Fare Hike Before Budget)

Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said he had only taken forward what the previous government had decided. "10% increase in passenger fare and 5% increase in freight was made in the interim budget but the previous government withheld it," he said.

The previous Congress-led UPA government had left passenger fares unchanged in the interim budget in February, just before the national election.

Indian Railways, which manages the world's largest network of trains and transports an estimated 25 million each day, is currently facing a severe financial crunch with passenger subsidy touching Rs. 26,000 crore.

The hike in passenger fares could bring nearly Rs 6000 crore to the Railways.