‘UPA lacked the courage to implement its own decision’
In the wake of protests from across the country against the 14.2 per cent hike in railway passenger fares announced on Friday, the government stepped up its defence of the decision by fielding Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley to explain the rationale.
The Indian Railways have been running at a loss and the only way that they can survive is when users pay for the facilities, Mr. Jaitley said on Saturday.
The government has been facing a barrage of protests ever since the hikes were announced as curbing inflation was one of the main poll promises of the BJP. BJP leaders said the decision to hike fares was taken by the UPA government and the current government only implemented it.
Mr. Jaitley pointed out that Mallikarjun Kharge, Railway Minister in the UPA government, on May 16, countermanded the order of the Railway Board to hike fares “so that theoretically the decision taken by him and the then Prime Minister is implemented by the Railway Minister of the NDA government.” “By withdrawing the countermanding order, the present Railway Minister, D.S. Sadananda Gowda, has taken a challenging decision,” he said, adding that the choice before Mr. Gowda was whether to allow “Railways to bleed and eventually walk into a debt trap by following the policy of the UPA government or implement the decision which the UPA government had taken to increase the fares for both passenger and freight but did not have the courage to implement.”
The Congress dismissed Mr. Jaitley’s argument. “Narendra Modi had tweeted on 26 October 2013 that issues like price rise don’t seem to bother the Congress, the party does not want to solve anything because of the arrogance of the party’s leaders. Now Arun Jaitley’s statement smacks of the arrogance that Mr. Modi had spoken of in October,” said spokesperson Ajay Maken.