Barely three weeks after train fares were increased, the two largest railway unions have come out in support of the demand for another hike in the rail budget.
The National Federation of Indian Railwaymen and All India Railwaymen’s Federation, which together represent the entire Railways, had been demanding a hike for two years, but to no avail. And when a hike was finally effected last month after 10 years, they realised it would be almost undone by the rise in diesel prices, which would negatively affect the 14 lakh workforce of the ailing national carrier.
“We want another round of hike of around two to three paise per km in the rail budget to offset the diesel hike. This is needed for the financial health of railways,” said M Raghavaiah, general secretary, NFIR.
The Railways had projected additional earnings of Rs 6,600 crore in the next financial year from the recent hike in fares. But, it turns out, the Rs 10.8 per litre increase in diesel prices for bulk consumers will take away around Rs 3,300 crore.
So given the financial situation, sources in the Railway Ministry said, another hike cannot be ruled out.
“Just like in other sectors like power, the rise or fall in fuel prices should be passed on to the users. If the government does not want to pass it on to consumers, it should subsidise railways,” said Shiva Gopal Mishra, general secretary of AIRF.
The last rail budget had mooted the idea of a Fuel Adjustment Component in fares to de-link them from fluctuating fuel prices.
In their demands for the rail budget, the unions have urged Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal that, as a financial reform, all projects with a rate of return of less than 20 per cent should be done away with for now.