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Narendra Modi must exempt poorer sections from rail fare hike

New Delhi: Normally when a new government takes over the reins of power after getting a massive victory in polls, the first thing it does is to assure the electorate that the government is determined
Raj Singh June 23, 2014 16:50 IST
Raj Singh
New Delhi: Normally when a new government takes over the reins of power after getting a massive victory in polls, the first thing it does is to assure the electorate that the government is determined to fulfill the promises it had made in the run up to elections.

The New Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, has his own way of thanking his electorate for having shown confidence in his poll promises.

Narendra Modi , throughout 2014 election campaign, had promised that once he is voted to power , he'll change the lives of those who are struggling to survive amidst burgeoning inflation.

But just within weeks of his taking over, it seems that he has forgotten all that he had said during election campaign and has completely changed his priorities. He seems to be considering himself more of a CEO of an MNC than the Prime Minister of a welfare state.

The new government first increased the price of diesel and now it has ordered a massive hike in Rail fares that includes both passenger fare as well as freight rates. The passenger fare has been hiked by a massive 14.2 percent while the freight rates have been increased by 6.5 percent.

The Railways is hopeful of mopping up an addition Rs 7,900 crores but this decision is going to make the life more miserable for the aam aadmi who Modi claims to be so fond of.

The increase in freight rates is bound to have a cascading effect on the prices of essential commodities because the traders will definitely pass on the additional transportation cost to the consumers. How will it help the PM Narendra Modi in fulfilling his promise of checking inflation?

It's true that Indian Railway is incurring a massive loss in the passenger section on a daily basis but this can be no justification for putting extra burden on aad aadmi who travel in General and Sleeper classes and carry MST (Monthly Seasonal Ticket).

Those travelling in AC classes will not be bothered by these hikes as paying an additional 100-200 Rupees will not drastically alter their monthly budget but this is not true for those travelling in General and Sleeper classes.

Will it not have been advisable for the government to spare those travelling  in General and Sleeper classes and carrying  MST ?

This is not to deny the fact that economy is in dire straits and tough decisions are needed to improve its health. But there is an equal need to spare the vulnerable sectional of the society from paying more for the basic services that is nothing short of a fundamental right in a welfare state like ours.

The restructuring of taxes and other tariffs should be done in a way that takes a benevolent view of the underprivileged section of the society.

Now let's take a look at the political impact of this decision. Narendra Modi should not forget the fact that out of his 282 MPs , more than 100 come from the states of UP and Bihar only and these are the states where per capita income is one of the lowest in the country. Bihar will be going to polls next years and if Modi believes that Lok Sabha trends are going to be repeated in assembly polls then he should be ready for a big shock.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, people across the country voted for Narendra Modi because to he promised to change the lives of hoi-polloi for good and the common man saw a ray of hope in him. In the parliamentary elections, even people who did not like BJP voted for Narendra Modi hoping that he will definitely bring in ‘achchhe din'. If Modi continues to take whimsical decisions then this section wil lose no time in changing its preference.

This is true for states like Maharashtra and Haryana as well that are going to polls this year. The NDA may have swept these states in the name of Modi but things wil be different in assembly elections and Modi's indifference towards the underprivileged section of the society will further  make things difficult for the BJP and its allies.

Even Delhi that gave one sided verdict in all 7 Lok Sabha seats may spring a surprise. The Delhites are already outraged over massive power cuts that have become order of the day in the national capital. There are also reports of the power companies planning to hike the power tariff in Delhi. Narendra Modi's all these ‘bitter medicines' may hand over Delhi on platter to AAP that has already sniffed an opportunity after it was decimated in Lok Sabha polls.

There is also a very important aspect of Narendra Modi's style of functioning that can't be overlooked. Even as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he was never known for taking populist economic decisions. For example, he increased the electricity tariff in Gujarat although he succeeded in ensuring round the clock availability of power.

However, it will be naïve to compare Gujarat with rest of the country. Gujarat was never a poor state like UP or Bihar. People of Gujarat did not mind paying more for electricity if they were getting round the clock supply but what about those people in Bihar who find it difficult to make both ends meet on a daily basis?

This is the section of the people that had never voted for BJP in the past but this time, they came out in large numbers and supported Modi trusting his words that he will usher in good days (achche din) for them. Will they not consider it a betrayal if Narendra Modi puts more financial burden on them?

Narendra Modi has got a historic mandate for changing the destiny of the people of India. He should do everything that is needed to bring the economy back on the tracks but is it too much to ask him to exempt the poorer and vulnerable sections of the society from being subjected to further hikes that will make their lives even more difficult?