By Narendra Puppala
New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) People of the country, yet to recover from their New Year revelry, woke up Wednesday to the double blow of increased rail fares, and cooking gas prices – both essential components of the common Indians’ lives and directly impacting their household budgets.
Coming on the first day of 2020, the developments couldn’t have been more inopportune for the government, which is battling criticism over its handling of the economy amid fears of spiralling inflation.
CPI-M chief Sitaram Yechury lost no time in attacking the government. “Modi govt starts the year. After railway passenger fare hikes, another attack on peoples’ livelihoods. All this In the wake of sharp job losses, food price inflation and record fall in rural wages,” he said in a tweet.
The Indian Railways has hiked passenger fares across the board, with immediate effect. Prices per kilometre have been raised for passenger trains, sleeper, and AC class fares, with sleeper class passengers will have to shell out an additional 2 paise per kilometre of travel, while those travelling in 3 AC, 2 AC and AC first class will be paying 4 paise more per kilometre.
Wednesday’s hikes come almost five years after the last fare rationalisation exercise undertaken in 2014-15. Apart from attributing the move to defray expenditure incurred on enhancing passenger amenities and disbursing 7th Pay Commission payouts, the Railways has said that revenues realised from the fare hike will help speed up modernisation and services.
However, opposition party leaders are not letting the opportunity go of criticising the government over the price hike.
Fresh from their recent victory of sorts over the BJP in Maharashtra, NCP leader Supriya Sule also tweeted against the government. “2020 begins with a piece of bad news for the common man as Railway Fare and the prices of Non Subsidised Gas Cylinders have increased…With Inflation and unemployment on one hand and slow economic growth hand, the backbone of the common man will be broken. Economic reforms are needed to address the issue of Inflation,” she said.
Although LPG price revision is a monthly feature every month, Wednesday’s hike was met with annoyance by twitterati, coming on the first day of the year. The price of non-subsidised LPG cylinder has been increased by Rs 19, and with the latest hike, the prices have recorded a total increase of Rs 139.50 per cylinder, over the past five months.
As opposed to subsidised cylinders which are available at Rs 495.86, the non-subsidised cylinders are available at a higher price. The latest price restructuring has increased the cost of a 14.2 kg LPG cylinder from Rs 695 to Rs 714.