SUCI(C) criticizes Railway Budget as a shrewd ploy to increased privatization while dodging the issues which make railway travel hazardous, costly and unsafe

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Comrade Provash Ghosh, General Secretary, SUCI (C) issued the following statement on 26 February 2015:-

While presenting Railway Budget 2015, the BJP Railway Minister has been extremely cunning in dodging the serious issues which are plaguing the Railways over the years like late running, dilapidated conditions of the coaches and rakes, unhygienic maintenance and improper track monitoring, rising incidents of theft, burglary and atrocities on women passengers, rampant corruption at every stage of operation, menacing rise in malpractices, nepotism, misappropriation, loot and larceny,backdoor recovery of additional fare in the form of superfast surcharge, increased number of tatkal quota and recurring number of accidents which make railway journey costly hazardous, harassing and above all unsafe. Instead, he has opted for playing to the gallery with customary announcements of a surfeit of routine promises particularly giving an impression of making Railway hi-tech with a slew of IT enabled facilities which, it is needless to say, will be exclusive preserve of a miniscule section of tech savvy passengers and hence of no use to the maximum number of ordinary commuters. Thus, the minister has shrewdly tried to hoodwink the people and shield the hideous underbelly of the budget propositions.

The minister has also sought to take credit for having not increased the passenger fare but the fact is such hikes are no more effected in the budget but slapped on the people by means of issuing administrative fiat bypassing the parliament as was the case last year when the BJP government steeply raised passenger fares by 14.2% and freight charges by 6.5%. Moreover, with a separate Railway Tariff Authority vested with the power of revising the fares and surcharges as and when it deems fit and need not get the same passed in the parliament, there is no need for the railway minister to declare any hike in fare in the budget. However, freight charges on coal, iron ore and steel would go up from April 1 cascading effect of which will be on the prices of other essential commodities.

What is most noteworthy is that the minister has envisaged an investment of Rs. 8.5 lakh crore in next five years and gave clear indication of so much of resources coming either from multilateral development banks or pension funds and through accelerating the process of privatization of the Railways by widening the scope of “Public-Private partnership” (PPP). Surely, the private operators will maximize return on their investment by imposing more and more burden on the common passengers through periodic escalation of fare and other charges and that too exorbitantly. Significantly, all the stations are to be handed over to the private houses for maintenance. This will introduce platform ticket in the stations which do not require that now and increase the cost platform ticket in these stations where it is required. It is pertinent to mention that last year, the government talked of a fuel price-linked fare structure meaning that if fuel prices are lowered, fares will come down. But despite fall in the fuel price, fares have not been reduced while it is for sure that if there is rise in fuel tariff, fares will be immediately jacked up on that plea.

We call upon the people to realize the utter deception camouflaged under the mellifluous words of the budget speech and rise in organized protest against the chicanery of the pro-monopolist pro-corporate anti-people BJP government.

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