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AAP to protest rail surcharge on Navi Mumbai commuters
It is an irony that government imposes a surcharge quickly for any natural calamity, like earthquakes, flood, war etc. and simply forgets to reverse it back even after decades. A similar surcharge was imposed during Bangladesh war in 1971 which had been withdrawn only after a hue and cry from the public more than 40 years later.

Railways surcharge on Navi Mumbai Rail commuters commenced sometime in 1993, while CIDCO was desperate to add connectivity to this side of the sea and in turn get their pound of flesh by jacking up land prices. They roped in Railways to construct a bridge over Vashi creek and Modern Railway stations in Navi Mumbai, and funded a nominal sum towards construction cost of the bridge.

The modus operandi was one-time funding and maintenance of railway stations by leasing commercial property, the land which was available for Rs. 260 per sq mt. in vashi and beyond is now Rs.1,00,000 per sq mt and these are CIDCO's reserve prices. CIDCO earned hugely but Railways earned only fare, since there is no goods movement.

Initially, a surcharge of Rs. 2 was imposed on tickets sold from CST to Vashi and return. When the railways started their operation, this was eventually raised up to Rs. 3 per ticket by adding another rupee for MUTP surcharge.

However, on January 22, 2013, railways rationalized fares across Mumbai suburban and made it a multiple of Rs. 5. Thus the surcharge became Rs 5 per ticket by default; as a result, the Navi Mumbaikars are seriously disadvantaged by paying almost Rs. 250-300 every month for single journey to and from CST. Incidentally, Mumbai suburban is among handful profit earners for Indian Railways.

Aam Aadmi party (AAP) has decided to protest against this surcharge. The party's local convenor, Ravi Srivastava has started a signature campaign. He claims to have more than 5000 signatures from commuters against this surcharge. Srivastava also filed RTIs in CIDCO and Railways to get the details of the surcharge. According to a party statement, CIDCO directed Sirvastava's RTI to Railway to respond.

In response to the RTI application, it has surfaced that CIDCO paid only Rs 42.57 cr for the construction of the bridge, and in another reply Railways has confirmed that it has paid back Rs. 356.81 cr in last 20 years i.e. till Feb 2013 to CIDCO, which is roughly eight and a half times the construction cost, and still recovery is going on.

Since the bridge was constructed approximately 25 years ago, no records are available. This leads to a suspicion as to how long this recovery will continue. Even this amount which is 850% is phenomenal. If one assumes even the compound interest, it can be maximum up to Rs.320 cr (if sum is fixed) at the end of 21 years, while in the instant case recovery is regular.

The Aam Adami Party is contemplating to appeal to both the authorities and shall resort to PIL in this case.

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