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Modi government ruined railways in last 10 years of 'anyay kaal': Congress

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that as Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Odisha to campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, one should remember that on June 2 last year, one of the biggest train accidents of independent India took place there.
Last Updated : 29 May 2024, 14:00 IST
Last Updated : 29 May 2024, 14:00 IST

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New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday accused the Modi government of "ruining" the Indian Railways and flagged issues such as "anti-poor infrastructure priorities" and a "callous attitude" towards passenger safety.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that as Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Odisha to campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, one should remember that on June 2 last year, one of the biggest train accidents of independent India took place there.

"On this unfortunate occasion, let us look at how the Modi government has ruined the Indian Railways in the last ten years of 'anyay kaal'," he said in a thread of posts on X.

Ramesh said the five major issues of railways are -- "ticket vasooli, anti-poor infrastructure priorities, lagging train speeds, callous attitude to passenger safety and deteriorating railways finances".

Explaining the issues, Ramesh said the railways reports an average price per passenger per kilometre.

In 2013-14, this was Rs 0.32/passenger-km and by 2021-22, this had more than doubled to Rs 0.66/passenger-km, a 107 per cent increase, he said.

"If we compare this to the UPA's performance from 2003-4 to 2013-14, we see a much more reasonable increase from Rs 0.24 to Rs 0.32 (a 33 per cent increase). @INCIndia sees the Railways as the backbone of India's society and economy, not just as a vehicle for vasooli collection!" the Congress leader said.

"If we look past the averages and at specific ticket types, the Vasooli becomes even more clear and insidious. We must credit the Modi government for coming up with so many different ways to extort India's people!" Ramesh said.

He said four tactics are deployed for "vasooli" -- 'fake' superfast surcharges, withdrawal of senior citizen concessions, dynamic pricing 'fraud' and long extensions of so-called special trains.

The 'fake' superfast surcharges are originally meant to apply only to premium trains but are now applied to any train service the Modi government chooses.

In October 2022, for example, over 130 ordinary mail express trains across the country were labelled as 'superfast', he said.

Passengers are being made to pay up to Rs 180 extra per reservation in sleeper class without even getting any real improvement in speed or quality, he claimed and tagged a media report on it.

"In fact, the CAG found that up to 95 per cent of 'superfast'-tagged trains are delayed or do not attain superfast speed, despite collecting crores in surcharges," he alleged.

"In a move that requires a special kind of cruelty, the Modi government withdrew rail ticket concessions for senior citizens during the Covid-19 pandemic. Senior citizens who may be relying on trains for pilgrimage, to visit their children, or to avail medical treatment, are now being charged much higher fares," the Congress general secretary said.

In the three years since this policy, over Rs 3,700 crore has been 'looted' from senior citizens, Ramesh said.

"Dynamic pricing fraud is perhaps the most visible form of loot by the Modi government. Fares are hiked up by up to 50 per cent on high-demand routes, leading to unaffordability for poor travellers.

"For example, the ticket price for Mumbai to Patna in 2013-2014 was Rs 533 for sleeper class. It has since jumped to Rs 2,625 for sleeper class during festivals due to dynamic pricing," he said.

He said these huge dynamic prices for railway tickets often exceed airline prices.

The migrant worker who wants to visit his family for Chhath Puja or the student wishing to see her family for the holidays is now being shunted out of India's railways system, he claimed.

He also alleged that the tag of 'special' trains is being misused to hike fares.

"While special trains are supposed to be run for six months to a year, there have been trains like the Vijayapura-Mangaluru route that have been called 'special' for over 3 years, all the while charging 50% higher fares," Ramesh said.

He also said the "anti-poor mindset" of this government is clear in its spending choices for rail infrastructure.

"While the UPA spent crores on high-quality services for the common man, such as the Garib Rath trains, the Modi government has shifted spending to expensive AC coaches — even though 95.3 per cent of train passengers ride sleeper and general classes," he said.

"More than 33 per centof seats added in the last 10 years went to AC 3-tier coaches. The schedule for the Railways Coach Factory for 2023-25 has just 1,142 General and Sleeper coaches against 3,044 air-conditioned coaches on order," he said.

Ramesh also flagged concerns over "lagging train speeds, callous attitude to passenger safety and deteriorating railways finances".

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Published 29 May 2024, 14:00 IST

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