NEW DELHI: With mounting criticism, Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley came out in defence of the train fare hike saying it was a bold decision to make the Railways world class.
He said it was the UPA Government’s decision that had to be implemented by his government.
“A loss making railway will provide below-par services. It will eventually not even have the resources to pay its’ bill. India must decide whether it wants a world class railway or a ramshackled one. The Railway Minister has taken a difficult, but a correct decision,” Jaitley said on Saturday.
Protests broke out across the country, as various opposition parties, including the Congress, held dharnas against the fare hike..
Writing on the social-networking site Facebook, Jaitley explained the sequence of events leading to fare hike. He said the Railway Board had proposed a 5 per cent increase in the freight rates and a 10 per cent increase in the passenger fares in Feburay when the UPA was in power. “The then Railway Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge met the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 11th February, 2014.
“The then Prime Minister approved the hike and suggested that both freight and passenger fare should be implemented with effect from 1st May, 2014 itself,” Jaitely said. “The Railway Board accordingly notified this increase on 16th May when the poll results were being declared. The Railway Minister developed cold feet and countermanded the order of the Railway Board so that theoretically the decision taken by him and the then Prime Minister is implemented by the Railway Minister of the NDA Government,” the Finance Minister said.
Meanwhile, the Congress took a dig at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for saying that the steep hike in railway passenger fares and freight rates was a “difficult but correct decision”.