The Opposition may have its own views over the decision taken by Narendra Modi-led government to increase passenger and freight charges but the step was quite necessary. In order to pull the railways out of its poor financial state, its income had to be increased. The Railways, which spends 70 percent of its revenue as salary to its employees and the rest on the passenger subsidies, can neither move forward without increasing its income nor can focus on expansion or modernization. It’s in fact known to everyone that in order to prevent accidents, the signaling system needs to be modernized and along with that, the facility and infrastructure in the stations also need to be improved. One of the major reasons behind financial crisis of Railways is that Manmohan Singh-led government kept on overlooking all reform measures. In order to fulfill its political ambitions, the Congress-led government kept on doling out subsidies and freebies which not only harmed the cause of railways but also served blows to national economy. Those who are criticizing the hike in tariff and freight charges should remember that the proposal was first forwarded by none other than previous government’s railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge. Needless to say, the UPA government, sensing the poll results, stalled its decision to hike railway fares and kept it pending for the new government. The way the Opposition parties are creating a chaos over the hike is nothing but an example of stooping down to low-level politics.

Prime Minister Modi was well aware of this fact right from the beginning that if BJP comes to power at the Centre, it will have to deal with a difficult economic situation. In fact, the country has moved towards a state of poverty in terms of financial and economic conditions. As a prime minister, Manmohan Singh himself understood this very fact as well but due to political compulsions, he could never take such a decision which would have brought some improvement in the situation. After swearing in as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi made it clear before the people that they will have to be prepared to swallow some ‘bitter pills’. The current state of Railways is not hidden from anyone and a number of experts have also pointed out at the crisis prevailing in the sector. Now since Modi government has taken a tough decision, it’s possible that the ruling dispensation may take some hard stand during the presentation of budget. It’s also likely that the Opposition may stage protests inside as well as outside Parliament. In such a scenario, Modi government should be prepared to make its stand on the policies clear. It would be good if the Central government makes a detailed report related to all the ministries and bring it before the people, in a way an issue is presented on a white paper.  It needs to be brought before the nation that what kind of economy the previous government had handed over to the NDA government led by Narendra Modi. If this does not happen, the people won’t be able to know the actual fact and they might arrive at a conclusion that the new government is just aggravating the problems. There is nothing wrong in bringing out this reality that the way previous Manmohan Singh-led government, instead of stressing on development and industrialization, relied to a large extent on subsidies and its adverse consequence was out before all. One also needs to be familiar with this very fact that to what extent the issues related to Railways was politicized. Earlier, a hike into railway fares was brought into effect in 2002-03 and it was just for namesake. After that, railways became a safe breeding ground for politics. In 2012, then railway minister Dinesh Trivedi effected a hike in fares by 30 paise. The move, however, proved costly for Trivedi as he not only lost his portfolio but under the pressure of his party – Trinamool Congress, the hike was also rolled back.

Today, it has become quite necessary to bring a white paper as the condition of every ministry seems to be in doldrums, giving an impression that nothing has been done for the past two to three years. The condition has deteriorated to such an extent that not only would it take time to bring the entire scheme of things back on track but the people will have to bear the weight of some extra burden as well. No one is unaware of this fact that how the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government stopped taking decisions during the fag-end of its tenure. It seems that Manmohan Singh-led government had a grasp of this fact two-three years back that it would be difficult for his dispensation to make a comeback and it went on to create a situation to generate an array of problems for the new government so that it is deemed unsuccessful. The people should be well-aware of this fact that the facilities and conveniences enjoyed by them are availed at doubled rates in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, the nation’s political culture has been such that the government prefers to woo people by dishing out subsidies in order to keep its vote-bank safe and intact.

Modi government needs to decide that where it wants to see the nation after five years. A number of obstacles lie in the path leading to prosperity. The problem of inflation could be termed as one of them. It’s not possible that people’s income will keep on increasing and the rates of government-aided grants and facilities remain constant. It’s also true that the nation’s income will get a boost only when industrialization will gain the pace, which will further generate new avenues and opportunities of employment. Indian economy can’t be strengthened solely on the basis of agriculture. The irony of the matter is that a major section of the nation is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. One of the prime reasons lies in the fact that the UPA government did not try even a bit to give industrialization any kind of fillip in the last ten years.    

Modi government will also have to ensure that whenever a tough decision in the path of reforms will be taken, apart from putting pressure on the people, it also brings qualitative improvement in the fundamental core of all government-aided facilities.  When this happens, the people will be in a position to bear the aftershocks of big decisions. It’s indeed a reality that people are willing to shell out extra penny in order to have access to 24x7 supply of electricity, drinking water, better roads etc. They face problems when the government increases the charges but no significant changes could be noticed in the services and facilities. It’s clear that apart from taking tough measures necessary for economic reforms, Modi government also needs to present its administrative acumen so that the people can see an immediate solution to their problems apart from acquiring better facilities. The government will also have to check that the exchequer’s wealth does not get wasted due to corruption. The people, who are already troubled by the blows of inflation, can bear a bit of burden but if this goes beyond a certain limit, they will collapse.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on June 22, 2014 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)