New Delhi: Justifying the hike in rail fares, Finance Minister P Chidambaram Thursday said it was a "sound economic decision" given the financial health of railways.
Chidambaram also sought to make light the opposition criticism of the decision saying it was fairgame for them to oppose the fare hike for the sake of opposition.
"I think these are sound economic decisions. I think we should not politicise these decisions. Of course, economic decisions are taken by a political government but they do not cease to be economic decisions," he told reporters here.
He was asked to comment on the Opposition criticism of the decision to hike passenger rail fares across the board from January 21 and its demand for immediate rollback.
"Railway fare hike is an economic decision. Railway fares have not been hiked for 10 years," he said.
Chidambaram said Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had briefed the media yesterday and explained why it was unavoidable to increase the passenger fares given the state of health of the finances of railways.
"I think it is fair game for opposition to oppose the fare hike for the sake of opposition. But, the last time railway fares were hiked was by the NDA government when Nitish Kumar was the Railways Minister," he said.
Chidambaram said there was no proposal before the Cabinet to increase diesel prices.
Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi spoke in similar vein on the rail fare hike issue when asked about BSP chief Mayawati's stiff oppostition to it.
Insisting that the step has been taken under compulsion, Alvi said that there had been no hike in fares for the last ten years.
He said with the hike, the party hopes that the Railways would be able to improve its performance including facilities to passengers.