They questioned the relevance of taking such a decision when the Budget Session has already been announced and also demanded an immediate roll-back. JPN/Agencies
"After coming into government, without taking the Parliament into confidence and without bringing out a white paper...if they felt that the financial health of the railways was not up to the mark or without waiting for the railway budget, they have gone ahead and increased rail tariffs by 14 percent,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
"What kind of a sensitivity is this that those who till yesterday were talking about 'aam aadmi' (common man) and how his concerns should be addressed, have now started doing the opposite by imposing as much burden as they can on the so called 'aam aadmi' who voted them to power," Tewari added.
"Ab ki bar Double Speak Sarkar.... Modi wrote a letter to PM in 2012 on the Rail fare hike ! ACHHE DIN AA GAYE !," Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said on Twitter.
His tweet also gave a link to Modi's Twitter account in which he had said on March 7, 2012 "Just before Rail Budget UPA has suddenly increased railway freight rates bypassing Parliament. Wrote to PM against this..."
Seeking immediate rollback of the rail hike, AICC Communication Department in-charge Ajay Maken said the ‘gift’ by Modi-led government is putting an additional burden on the shoulders of the middle-class, lower-middle class and the poor.
Former railway minister and Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, said the proposal for the hike was placed before him when he was the minister but he had put it on hold as the Lok Sabha polls were round the corner and he wanted the new government to take a decision without burdening the common people.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said the common man of the country felt ‘cheated’ as the BJP had promised to bring down prices and help them get rid of hardships.
"AAP is shocked over the steep hike in passenger fares and freight charges announced by the Railways Ministry. This happens to be the second hike in eight months and the steepest in the recent past. The railways, which ferries 25 million people everyday, is the lifeline of the country and the principal mode of conveyance for the 'aam aadmi'. The common man of the country feels cheated today as the BJP had promised to bring down prices...," the party said in a statement.
Left was also critical of the move and slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his "reward" to the people, whom he had promised to bring relief.
"We strongly condemn the unprecedented hike in railway fare. This is going to be a huge burden on the people at a time when they are already battling relentless price rise," CPI (M) Politburo member Brinda Karat said.
"It is criminal. We demand its reversal. At the same time see the hypocrisy of the government. When the Congress used to do it in between Parliament sessions or pre-budget, they would say how undemocratic it is and exactly that undemocratic bypassing of Parliament is what the Modi government has done," she added.
West Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Bose said that the Left would organise protests before railway stations and railway offices across the state.
"We condemn the railway fare hike. We will organize demonstrations and street corner meetings in front of railway stations against hike in fares and freight charges," Bose said in a statement.
The Janata Dal (United) also echoed similar sentiments on the issue with former railway minister Nitish Kumar saying that the NDA government was "promoting the bad tradition" started by the UPA.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa urged the Prime Minister to roll back the increase in the interests of the poor and the middle class people.
"I appeal to the Prime Minister to roll back the hike considering the welfare of the poor and the middle class people," she said in a statement here.
The hike would severely affect the poor and the middle class and also lead to a steep increase in prices of essential commodities and vegetables, she said.
The Trinamool Congress came down heavily on Modi-led government, saying it was following the "tricks of the previous government" and there was no respite for the common man.
"Is this a super rail budget before the rail budget? The common man is already burdened, now he will be over-burdened," Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP and spokesman Derek O'Brien said.
The Samajwadi Party also questioned the relevance of the increase at a time when the Budget Session has been announced and said that the people should be ready to get burdened in the General Budget as well.
"This is the beginning of good times. I could not understand that when the Budget Session is scheduled in July what is the relevance of increasing the fares before that. Then what is the relevance of Parliament," SP leader Naresh Aggarwal said.
Biju Janata Dal
Terming the rail fare hike as "anti-middle class" and "anti-poor", Odisha Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik said this would further aggravate inflation.
"This is anti-middle class and anti-poor move of the Central government," Patnaik said while reacting over the hike in passenger fare and freight charges.
Rail hike is what UPA govt had already proposed: BJP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sought to defend the Centre’s decision to hike both passenger fares and freight rates, saying it has only implemented what the previous government proposed and got approved in the Interim Budget.
"The hike was already proposed by the previous government and the Interim Rail Budget was passed in the Parliament," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
He said the BJP had not opposed the linking of fares and freight rates with the fuel prices as proposed by the previous UPA regime in Parliament.
"Parliament has already approved the policy of linking the passenger fares and freight rates with the fuel prices," he said justifying that there was no need for the government to seek the Parliament’s approval on this hike.
"We understand the needs of Railways in modernising its infrastructure and in ensuring safety of passengers. We will come with our Rail Budget which will bring out our plans of introducing bullet trains and modernising Railways," he said.
The NDA will come up to the people's expectations of introducing fast trains, improve the amenities in trains and also ensure safety of passengers, he said.
"We also want to strengthen railway tracks and introduce bullet trains. Railways is suffering a loss of around Rs 900 crore per month and its financial health needs to be improved for it to provide better services to people," he said.
In one of the biggest hikes, the railways on Friday raised passenger fares by 14.2 percent for all classes and increased freight rates by 6.5 percent to garner Rs 8000 crore annually through the pre-budget decision.
The decision, which will come into effect from 25th June and apply on basic fare, comes nearly a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country should be ready for tough decisions.
Due to the hike, a passenger will now have to shell out Rs 4,354 for a journey between Delhi and Kolkata by AC-I on Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani, instead of Rs 3,813.
Travel by AC-II on the same train will cost Rs 2,508 instead of Rs 2,197 and by AC-I, it will cost Rs 1,728 instead of Rs 1,514.
Journey between Delhi and Mumbai by Rajdhani will cost Rs 4,073 instead of Rs 3,567 in AC-I, Rs 2,357 instead of Rs 2,064 in AC-II and Rs 1,617 instead of Rs 1,416 in AC-III.
Travel between Delhi and Chennai by Delhi-Chennai Rajdhani will now cost Rs 4,673 instead of Rs 5,430 in AC-I, Rs 3,129 instead of Rs 2,740 in AC-II and Rs 2,119 instead of Rs 1,856 in AC-III.
They questioned the relevance of taking such a decision when the Budget Session has already been announced and also demanded an immediate roll-back.