New Delhi, Feb 26: The railway ministry had expected to increase its earnings by raising the fare but two years down the line, the railways authorities have been shocked to see that the number of train passengers has gone down by 14 crore!
According to a report published in Anandabazaar Patrika on Thursday, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has sought report from various zones of the railways to know the reason behind such an unprecedented occurrence. [Follow Live updates of Railway Budget 2015]
The Indian Railways carry 23 million passengers a day, which means transporting the entire population of Australia a day.
The railway ministry started hiking the fare only towards the end of the UPA government. Trinamool Congress's Dinesh Trivedi had to lose the post of the railway minister for raising the fare but the subsequent railway ministers from the Congress and BJP (after the Lok Sabha election) increased the fares and the passenger count started going down thereafter, said the report.
According to the statistics, the number of passengers across the country went down by 7 crore in 2013-14. In the 2014-15 fiscal, the figure has touched 14 crore, the ABP report said. The south-central, south-eastern and eastern zones have seen the most number of reduction in the passenger's count.
Why is the passenger count decreasing? Here are some probable reasons:
- The passenger count in air-conditioned first and second classes have decreased since their fares are almost equal to that of the flight. Various air carriers sell cheap tickets often which make it more convenient for the people. People also cancel trains tickets when there is a cheaper air ticket available.
- Passenger count has decreased in medium-distance trains, feel sources in the railways. The reason is improved road conditions in the rural and semi-rural areas. There is an increase in number of passengers who travel without a ticket.
- Corruption is also a reason for the anomaly in the railways. If the passenger count has gone down, then also why getting a confirmed ticket is a difficult ask in India? The computerised system of booking railway ticket has given birth to corrupt practices, many feel for the practice of auditing has virtually stopped once the mechanised system of booking has started.
Hiking railway fare is a difficult call to make for the ruling party now. For with a serious loss in Delhi and crucial elections coming up in Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam in the next two years, the BJP will take its course cautiously. For it has a lot at stake in each of these poll-bound states.