The pandemic and long lockdowns have pinched the pockets of the common man; above all the price hike in all basic sectors such as grocery, vegetables, commuting from office to home everything has reached a peak when it comes to price rise. Petrol and diesel rates have gone up, so the trucks and transportation, that’s how commodities rates, it’s all interred related. People are frustrated because they have their own challenges on various fronts. Survival needs a proper budget. Lack of job opportunities, deducted salaries and dried bank accounts are not allowing them a calm life.
The Indian Railway’s higher fares for short-distance passenger trains are done only to discourage people from travel which is not required. But Railways needs to understand when travel is not needed, why would someone want to travel. Those who have to travel to meet their needs take the burns of these price rises.
With a view to regulate rush at stations and in trains, passenger trains are being charged slightly more fair than pre-COVID times and a close vigil is being kept. The situation is being constantly monitored to ensure restoration of services in keeping with the set of rules necessary to be followed during COVID times. It may be noted that Passenger operations have always been subsidized by railways. Indirectly Indian Railways bears a loss on every journey by a passenger.
The national transporter recently started short-distance passenger trains, like Electric Multiple Units, the fares for which have been now kept on a par with the unreserved class of long-distance mail/express trains for the same distance, as a special provision. During COVID, Indian Railways daunt needless travel with a slightly high fare of short-distance trains.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the national transporter has been running only special trains. Long-distance passenger trains and even short-distance passenger trains are being operated as special train services. As a special provision in view of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the fares of these trains have been fixed at par with mail and express trains’ absolute ticket price, for the same distance.
Indian Railways had stopped the operations of regular trains since 22 March 2020 and increasing the number of passenger trains. Regularisation of the usual passenger train services to the pre-pandemic times is to be considered by Indian Railways, keeping in view a range of factors as well as the functioning situation.
Since the pre-lockdown announcement, 1,250 mail, express trains and 5,350 suburban train services as well as over 326 number of passenger trains are in operation. The short-distance passenger trains account for less than 3% of the total trains being run. After the introduction of Mail and Express train services, the national transporter is operational to passenger trains, by taking all essential safety measures as well as making additional efforts.
The Railway Ministry said that COVID-19 is still around and in fact, in some states, the condition is deteriorating. Visitors and travellers from various states are being subjected to screening in other areas as well as discouraged to travel. The little fare hike is to be seen as a proactive measure of the national transporter to prevent crowding in trains and stop novel coronavirus from spreading.
According to the ministry, passenger train operations have always been subsidized by Indian Railways. Normally, the national transporter takes a loss on every journey by a railway passenger. Despite the fare hike, Indian Railways still remained a cheaper option to travel for the public. Due to the COVID crisis, trains are being operated under the toughest conditions and many trains are being operated in spite of low occupancy. Apart from other classes, the special trains that are being operated by Indian Railways have a large number of 2nd class coaches that have the lowest fare in the reserved category. According to officials, compared to the pre-pandemic unreserved travelling situations, 40% of the railway passengers have travelled in the “2S” class in much better conditions.
No doubt people are feeling the pain of price rise; the government has its own explanation. Indian railway is at loss and above all controlling the pandemic is the biggest challenge. People are prevented by imposing high prices on tickets. Be it UPA and NDA, the railway was never in profit-making. When BJP was in opposition Modi post his victory said, ‘Bhaiyon Petrol Ke Daam Kam Huey, Abhi Aur Kum Honge’ this was when the price of crude dropped to as low as 40 USD per barrel and the USD was around 60.
If the price drop was because of Modi the high price of petroleum that prevails today should also go to his credit. Having said that, the petroleum price is decided by the input cost chiefly crude oil prices and the exchange rate. On top of this, there are government taxes. The government while crude oil prices were low fixed heavy taxes and filled their coffins. They are retaining the greed of heavy taxes even when crude and exchange rates have gone high.