Describing as totally unfair the hike in freight charges based on artificial classification of ‘busy season’ and ‘lean season’ by the Railways, Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa on Saturday urged the Centre to withdraw the hike in freight charges immediately as it would have a cascading impact on the prices of essential commodities and the inflation rate.
“Considering the sorry state of affairs of Indian economy and that the hike in freight charges would add to the woes of the people who are already suffering from steep increase in the prices of food products, the Centre should withdraw the hike”, the Chief Minister said in a statement here.
Stating that hiking the freight charges would be tantamount to adding fuel to fire, the Chief Minister said the people had been bearing the burden of continuous increase in oil prices.
The Chief Minister said the Centre, in the name of dynamic pricing policy, has classified the nine-month period between October and June as ‘busy season’ and the three-month July-September period as ‘lean season’ and has been levying enhanced freight charges during the ‘busy season’.
Since the transport of freight by Railways remains the same throughout the year, it would be unfair to artificially classify the seasons, she added. She pointed that during the period April to June 2011, the Centre had hiked and fixed the freight charges for coal by five per cent and for other products by seven per cent.
‘’From October 2011 to June 2012, the freight charges for all products were hiked by 10 per cent and from October 2012 to June 2013, the Centre had hiked the freight charges for foodgrains and chemical fertilisers by 10 per cent each and for other products by 12 per cent for the ‘busy season’, Jayalalithaa recalled.
Now, the Railways has hiked the freight charges for the Busy Season beginning on October 1 by 15 per cent. Due to this, the freight charges on all commodities would go up by 15 per cent. The decision of the Centre would affect the poor severely.
The hike in freight charges would, in turn, increase the prices of all essential commodities and raw materials like cement, coal and iron used by industries.