NEW DELHI: Union Minister for Railways Dinesh Trivedi is all set to present his first Railway Budget on Wednesday amid much speculation on the controversial fare hike that Rail Ministers have avoided these past nine years. Will Trivedi follow suit? Most likely, say insiders.
Trivedi himself is not giving away anything. While being photographed on Tuesday, giving finishing touches to his budget speech, he said, “Rail Budget is going to be like whatever it should be.” Avoiding queries on fare hike he said, “You won’t get a preview of the budget.”
His Public Relations team is at its best—from Budget eve photography sessions to readying snapshots of him stepping out of Rail Bhawan on Budget day and stepping into Parliament House with the Rail Budget file under his locked arms—Trivedi has it all covered. The Minister, however, is stuck between the devil and the deep sea. On the one hand are unions, Parliamentary committees and the Railway Board pressuring him for a fare hike to save the Railways, and on the other is the noose around his neck were he to even remotely consider it—as it is clearly against the wishes of his party chief Mamata Banerjee.
Express had written earlier that a fare hike for air-conditioned classes is likely apart from the fuel price variable component across fare categories. Trivedi may effect it in the form of a safety cess recommended by the Kakodkar Committee.
As Trivedi has undertaken to moderni­se the Railways, expect announcements to that effect. However, “new trains will be few, as he has promised to decongest lines and provide for high-speed trains on some networks. He has also been stressing on safety, so crowding existing tracks is the last thing he will do,” a railway official said.