New Delhi: Accusing the government of raising rail fares through back door, the Opposition on Thursday demanded 21 per cent roll back of the passenger fare hike announced ahead of the rail budget.
Participating in the discussion on rail budget, members cutting across party lines asked Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to take steps to improve safety and services in Indian Railways.
Initiating the debate, Anurag Thakur (BJP) said Bansal had increased the passenger fare by as much as 21 per cent before the budget and also hiked reservation charges and other fees burdening the common man.
The Railway Ministry should "roll back 21 per cent rail fare hike and improve passenger facilities", he said, adding that it was the budget for Rae Bareli and Chandigarh and not for the entire nation.
Rae Bareli is the Lok Sabha constituency of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, while Bansal represents Chandigarh parliamentary seat.
Thakur said increase in fare and other charges will not benefit common man but amount to looting the common man presently reeling under the impact of high inflation.
Taking a dig at Bansal, he said the Minister had in mind urban rich of Chandigarh when he thought of introducing luxury coach `Anubhuti`.
Railways plans to manufacture 10 ultra-luxury coaches `Anubhuti` at Rae Bareli factory for the discerning Shatabdi and Rajdhani passengers.
Jagdambika Pal (Cong) said that after many years, the government has come out with a budget which meets expectations of all sections of people.
He demanded that Railways should set up a Rail Yatri Niwas at Gorakhpur station to cater to the needs of passengers coming from eastern UP and Nepal to national capital region.
After a gap of almost a decade, Bansal raised passenger fare by 21 per cent across all classes with effect from January 22 with a view to net an additional Rs 6,600 crore per annum. He, however, refrained from raising basic passenger fare during the budget, though he hiked various other charges, besides increasing freight charges by over 5 per cent to mop up Rs 4,200 crore.