New Delhi: In the first major hint of a change, new Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said that a hike in fares was a possibility. "Passenger fares can be hiked if needed. Primary concern is safety," Bansal said at a press conference.
Bansal, the former Parliamentary Affairs Minister, was made the Railways Minister on Sunday during the mega Cabinet reshuffle effected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of the 2014 General Elections.
The post of Railways Minister was left vacant after Mukul Roy, a Trinamool Congress leader, quit after his party chief Mamata Banerjee withdrew support to the ruling UPA government in the aftermath of the "big-bang reforms" unleashed by the PM that included allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and putting a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders.
The TMC chief had appointed Mukul Roy as the Railways Minister after another of her party leader Dinesh Trivedi, while announcing the budget as the Railway Minister, proposed a hike in the fares earlier this year. Mamata, complaining that Trivedi did not take her permission before announcing the fare hike, ensured that Trivedi stepped down from the post and was replaced by Mukul Roy.
Speaking to reporters, Bansal said, "I am aware of the difficulties the Railways faces. There are over 11,000 trains running daily. We know the expectations of the people. We will attempt to deliver them." "Punctuality and cleanliness is of utmost priority. Clean toilets is an issue to be looked at," he added.