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Cong endorses move to hike rail fares

New Delhi: Congress on Wednesday endorsed the decision to hike railway fares, saying it becomes "inevitable" sometimes, but was evasive on whether party chief Sonia Gandhi was taken on board on the issue or not.

"If fare is hiked in railways, it is not done with the permission of Sonia Gandhi. Party is a different entity and the government is a different one...Railway Minister is the best person to answer why he chose to hike the railway fare now," AICC spokesperson Rashid Alvi told reporters here.

He was replying to a question on whether the Congress President was taken into confidence over the measure.

Pressed if Gandhi was consulted, Alvi said he was not aware whether it was done or not.

The spokesman said that "sometimes it is inevitable" when asked how does the party look at the decision to effect an across-the-board hike in fares of all classes from midnight of January 21 to net an additional Rs 6,600 crore a year, the first such increase in a decade.

He said that consideration for a hike in railway fares was going on for a long time and such measures are needed for the country at times.

The increase in fares will rake in an additional Rs 1200 crore between January 21 and March 31, this year, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said announcing the decision and did not rule out a hike in the freight tariffs.

Breaking away from the populism of his predecessors, including Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee, Bansal, who was made the Railway Minister in October last, told a press conference that the decision to hike the fares was "imperative" as lack of revision in the last 10 years has had a "telling effect" on the finances of the national transporter.

(Agencies)

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