In response to Railway Ministry's advertisement in the press, here are some proposals for the rail budget
Today's newspapers carried the announcement that the Railway Budget would be presented on 8th July, before the Finance Minister submits the full-fledged Union Budget on 10th July. The Railway Ministry has called for suggestions and recommendations from the public, by inviting comments through advertisements in the press.
Last week, it may be recalled, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government took a difficult decision in hiking the railway fare by 14.2% and freight by 6%, which has been greeted with protests all over the country. In fact, some NDA partners openly admonished the Modi government for taking this step and demanded that it should be rolled back. In his defence, the railway minister and the finance ministers have claimed that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had made these proposals to increase the charges, but did not do so on the pretext of the "ensuing" elections. Now, the NDA seems to have been "forced" to enact this hike due to the increase in fuel costs.
The revised and increased rates are to be charged from 25th June, i.e. tomorrow. Due to the strong opposition to the rise and the anticipated railway budget on 8th July, it is possible that the Modi Government may decide to temporarily postpone this move to appease the public and their NDA partners.
Perhaps, as a response to these protests and the outcry from the public, the Railway Ministry has come out with the advertisement in the press seeking suggestions through email on [email protected] .
In the past, Moneylife has carried several stories on the Railways. While offering our suggestions, as given below, we would invite comments and recommendations from our readers, who may also write directly to the railway ministry:
a) Withdraw the 14.2% across-the-board increase in fares; a nominal increase of say 7% may be affordable for the lower classes of seats on trains.
b) For the 1st class and above, including AC compartments, a 14.2% increase may be workable, as the travellers concerned may make the choice between railways and air travel based on cost and other factors like travel time etc.
c) Increase of freight rates by 6.5% on domestic freight seems reasonable, considering higher amounts charged on road transport by users; however, Railways must ensure adequate availability of wagons, rakes etc, on demand
d) The increas in freight charges should not be applicable for all export cargo .
e) Senior citizens should be exempted from these increases on showing ID proof, while buying tickets and on actual travel; misuse would be punishable by a double charge and a fine.
f) Railways should introduce, if technically feasible, attachment of specially designed and easily identifiable wagons that carry export cargo from point of manufacture to port of export, to be hooked on to fast moving passenger express trains.
g) Ticket-less travellers should be handed over to the station master at the nearest stop and they should be fined and may be imprisoned
h) Passenger comfort and facilities in compartments should be upgraded
i) Vendors should not be allowed in compartments to sell their wares – these may also be ticket-less travellers causing nuisance to passengers
j) Railways must ensure that the train services maintain punctuality.
All these would make train travel a pleasure and not a pain. Some or all of these measures might in the long run, warm people up to the additional costs they end up paying as a result of the fare hikes.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
Housing prices have increased by up to 7.1% in 12 major cities, including Delhi and Mumbai, in the January-March period of 2014 due to a surge in demand, National Housing Bank said.
Prices witnessed an increase ranging from 1.3% in Bhopal to 7.1% in Surat compared to what prevailed in the last quarter of 2013.
Prices, however, fell in 12 other cities, ranging from -0.6% in Vijayawada to -5.7% in Patna. Indices for Faridabad and Kochi remained stagnant. Ahmedabad saw a prise rise of 6.1%, Chennai 5.8% and Kolkata 5.1%.
Lucknow saw a 4.9% rise, Raipur 4.4%, Mumbai 3.2%, Nagpur 2.9%, Dehradun 2.7%, Hyderabad 2.2%, Delhi 1.5% and Bhopal 1.3%. Cities which witnessed a decline include Jaipur (-3.8%), Guwahati (-3.75%), Bengaluru (-3.6%), Meerut (-3.5%), Bhubaneswar (-3.47%) and Ludhiana (-3.3%).
Prices fell in Chandigarh by (-2.7 %), Coimbatore (-1.7%), Indore (-1.6%), Pune (-1.3%) and Vijayawada (-0.6%).
The residex for January-March 2014 constructed for 26 cities has taken into account the price trends for residential properties in different locations and zones in each city.
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) told the Bombay High Court (HC) that it does not have adequate powers to forcibly evict the occupants of privately-owned dilapidated buildings. MCGM has filed a petition in the HC stating difficulties faced by it in implementing the eviction notices issued under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act and seeking more powers. The Corporation finds itself under fire whenever a building collapses. To present its case before the HC, it has hired senior lawyers SU Kamdar, EP Bharucha and Anil Sakhare. Mr Kamdar argued that when its officers try to implement the eviction notices, cases of molestation are sometimes lodged against them.