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Political Play
CA Dr Sunil Gupta
Roar over rail fare hike - An honest overview 25 June, 2014
Tell me what would anyone do when he is underpaid for decades? Tell me honestly what would your action be in case you provide services to millions and yet do not even manage the break-even point? While every opposition party is panicking over the hikes in rail fares, would anyone of them justify why this measure of the union government is detrimental to common man?
A simple rule of economics reveals that none of the productive unit can survive unless it earns some profit. And in case you expect Indian railways to provide services at losses, one day we would expect even the banking, telecommunication, and other sectors to work at a loss.

Every other day we come across news of rail accidents owing to improper signal systems. And then we blame the ministry of the consequences; however fail to understand that any advancement calls in for funds. Wouldn't you look for enhanced income prospects prior to upgrading your spending? Vital to note, the scheme of enhanced rail fares was devised by the UPA-2 railway minister Mr. Mallikarjun Khadge; however sensing the prospective defeat in the polls of 2014, the government delayed the implementation so as to let the new government face the heat. Subsidies were the key driving factor of the UPA-reign, but for how long?

The disorder of the railway system has been observed by distinct experts, even the former prime minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh. Let's realize the underlying fact as to why the political groups and leaders steered clear from hiking the fares. Railways is the area of responsiveness of India's common man, who turns into a voter during polls. Ranging from Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Prasad Yadav to Nitish Kumar and Pawan Bansal, none of the leaders ever attempted to diagnose the real concerns. Rather they continued with the same old policies to lure the common man, which in turn created a chaos for the Indian economy at the national level.

You can also recall the episode of Mr. Dinesh Trivedi being removed from the ministry of railways for the bare fact that he recommended hike in the rail fares. Though, he had the relevant calculations to justify his proposal, none of the political group had the courage to think of the economy prior to the vote bank.

It is evident that the UPA-2 anticipated the defeat in 2014 polls and hence created such a milieu wherein it would be more than problematic for the new government to undertake any economic reforms. And the general public, which when compares the quality of services with global standards, forgets to realize what we are contributing.

Now let us also consider the drastic degradation of railways in the past many years and some workable measures. Since 2004, the population has multiplied with an excessively increasing pace than the addition to number of trains.

Common man's conveyance has rarely added to the user-friendliness whether in terms of security, basic necessities, adherence to schedule, or availability. It is tough to comprehend the economic structure of Indian railways wherein demand is much more than supply; however financial reports reveal only losses. The new ministry will have to pay heed to all aspects, along with enhancing cleanliness and efficiency.

Lastly, when we talk about competing with European nations, we overlook our basic infrastructural domain. Bullet trains in foreign nations adhere to time and are opted by ministers of high rank as well.

On the contrary, Indian rails are quite often behind schedule, are vulnerable to accidents, and rarely provide any suitability. Above all, you need to conquer Everest for a train ticket. Isn't privatization of railway platforms a better option so as to ensure that services are offered at par with airports?

Also, similar to the air transportation, a few trains can be run by private players to infuse competition. Accidental damages, which have always been a concern, can be insured with the help of domestic/ international insurance companies. IRCTC website should be able-enough to bear the heavy traffic load in peak hours.

When general public is parting with much of the hard-earned money to travel via autos, buses and disciplined airlines in the absence of certainty of travel time of trains, no doubt if services like wi-fi, cleanliness, clean drinking water, hygienic toilets, neat and clean bedding, fresh eatable food in train as well as at railway stations, frequency of trains, speedy and safe travel and most importantly the ticket availability are improved, people would not hesitate to pay the hiked fare.

Please note that the new government had two options - to run the Indian rail in loss, or to take a brave step that could prevent severe collapse in the future. The new railway minister, Mr. Sadanand Gowda has courageously opted for the second option, which shall be accepted and rather encouraged by the general public. And the opposition shall note that the common man has voted for change and stable prosperity, hence the panic created would serve no good purpose for politicians.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
A Chartered Accountant by profession and Director on the board of Punjab National Bank (PNB), General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC) and Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC). Dr. Sunil Gupta is working flawlessly for the economic and social prosperity of India. His Linkedin and twitter handles are @cadrsunilgupta. Facebook page is CADrSunil.
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