No amount of ‘slick PR’ can hide ‘utterly mismanaged’ railways by Narendra Modi government: Congress


NEW DELHI: The Congress on Sunday said no amount of ”slick PR” can hide the manner in which the Indian Railways has been ”utterly mismanaged” during the Modi government, with Rahul Gandhi alleging that policies for the national transporter were being framed keeping only the rich in mind.

Gandhi also claimed that the trust in Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a ”guarantee of betrayal”.

In a post in Hindi on X, Gandhi alleged that by showing the dream of making those wearing ”hawai chappal” (slippers) travel by ”hawai jahaz” (airplane), Prime Minister Modi is even distancing them from ”gareebon ki sawari” (vehicle of the poor) railways.

”Amidst a 10 per cent increase in fare every year, loot in the name of dynamic fare, rising cancellation charges and expensive platform tickets, people are being lured by showing them a picture of an ‘elite train’ that the poor cannot even set foot on,” the former Congress chief said.

The government has collected Rs 3,700 crore from senior citizens in the last three years by ”snatching away” the exemptions given to them, he claimed.

Common persons’ trains are made to languish to give precedence to the train selected for publicity, Gandhi alleged.

He claimed that the poor and middle class passengers have been left out of railways’ priority.

”To increase the number of AC coaches, the number of general coaches is being reduced. Not only labourers and farmers but also students and service class people travel in these (general) coaches. The production of AC coaches has also been increased to three times that of normal coaches,” he alleged.

”In fact, ending the tradition of presenting the Railway Budget separately was a conspiracy to hide these exploits,” Gandhi charged.

The railways’ policies are being framed keeping only the rich in mind and this is a ”betrayal” of 80 per cent of India’s population that depends on it, he said.

”Trust in Modi is a ‘guarantee of betrayal’,” Gandhi claimed.

In a post on X, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, ”No amount of slick PR, social media posts by Ministers, and grand announcements can hide the manner in which the Indian Railways has been utterly mismanaged during the Modi regime – a decade of degradation with an anti-poor mindset.” Ramesh said five key issues have emerged – ”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 km.

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% 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% increase). @INCIndia sees the Railways as the backbone of India’s society and economy, not just as a vehicle for vasooli collection!” Ramesh 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.

The following four tactics are deployed for ”Vasooli” – fake superfast surcharges, senior citizen concessions withdrawn, dynamic pricing fraud and long extensions of so-called ‘special’ trains, the Congress leader said.

He said the first means for ”ticket vasooli” is the fake ‘superfast surcharges’, adding that originally meant to apply only to premium trains, it has now been 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% 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 2625 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.

Source: Press Trust of India

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