Saturday, March 17, 2012

Railway Budget 2012: I do not want Railways to go Air India way, says Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi

Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi's budget has caused a political storm, after his Trinamool Congress asked him to withdraw the hike or quit. In a brief conversation with Bharti Jain, Trivedi defended his budget. Excerpts:

Do you stand by your budget?

I have done my duty. The country comes first and then the family or individual. I have done what is good for the country and the railways, which is in dire need of resources for its much-needed modernisation and safety.

You think hike will help increase railway safety?

I am terribly concerned about safety. Two expert committees have told me how to provide safe journey to my passengers and what is needed to be done for this. All this needs resources. I did ask the government for support, but did not get enough. Where should I have gone then? I had no option but to hike fares.

But your own party is opposing the fare hike?

I had no option but to generate resources internally. I do not want railways to go the Air India way. The railway system was demoralised and safety was at stake due to the archaic signaling systems and lack of maintenance of locomotives and coaches. By raising fares, I am ensuring that railways becomes a safe and robust organisation.

Your reaction to the response to your budget

Well, the prime minister has hailed my budget. And I have been receiving compliments from fellow MPs. Many people have told me that they are quite okay with the fare hike as long as it brings them better services, hygiene and safety on trains.

But your party MPs have threatened to move a cut motion? Don't you think you should have explained the rationale behind the hike with your leader?

I could not have discussed budget proposals with anyone, as I am bound by the oath of secrecy. The budget is a confidential document and I cannot be talking the nitty-gritty of the budget to anyone. But now that the budget has been presented, it is my duty to convince my leader and explain the need for the fare hike to her.

You have been issued an ultimatum to rollback the hike or be replaced. Don't you think rollback is the easier option?

Standing by the fare hike is an easier option as I have at least listened to the voice of my conscience. The other option would have been more difficult. There can be no rollback, unless, of course, the prime minister tomorrow says that he will give me the required budgetary support of Rs 4,000 crore. But if this does not happen, railways would be in trouble. For, there are no free lunches.


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