The Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI-M, on Thursday attacked the government over its move to introduce surge pricing in three premium trains, while describing the decision “anti-poor” and demanded an immediate roll back. The government on Wednesday had announced surge pricing on Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto trains through flexi fare system.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, busy with his kisan padyatra in eastern Uttar Pradesh, attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying his model of development favoured only the rich and robbed the poor. “The speed of the train may or may not increase, but Modiji has put fares on the fast track. His model is to loot from the common people and provide relief to some of his industrialist friends,” Rahul tweeted.
Sharpening the attack, Congress communication department chief Randeep Surjewala said the move, coming ahead of the festive season, was anti-people, as they were already hit by high prices of essential items. “Railway surge pricing is Modi government's ugly gift to India during the festival season. Congress demands rollback,” he said.
Noting the Railways played an important role in unifying the country and was a public service for a majority of the people, the CPI-M said the national transporter cannot be treated as a profit-making enterprise of the government. “If this model was to be made applicable to other public services like government hospitals, fire brigade and the police, who will respond on the basis of demand at a given point in time, it would amount to complete abdication of the government in providing public services to the people,” said a CPI-M statement.
Surjewala cited the recent example of surge pricing by cab aggregators - Uber and Ola - in the national Capital, which was put an end to by the Delhi High Court. “Surge pricing occurs when a company raises the price of its offering, if there is an increase in demand,” he said, adding, “It is an irony the Railways is taking cue from cab operators.” The Congress further said the government aimed at mopping up around Rs 1,000 crore through surge pricing, while burning a hole in the pockets of the middle class.
Recalling Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu's Budget speech in February, the Congress said though he promised a freight growth target of 850 million tonne (mt), basing it on the expected eight-nine per cent gross domestic product growth and increased coal traffic, the reality was that the freight growth remained flat at April/December 2014 levels at 816 MT during the same period this year. The government has been single-mindedly pursuing the agenda of privatising Railways, under the guise of corporatisation, the Congress alleged.