Friday, April 27, 2007

Railways rapped for `deceptive practices'

Special Correspondent

Parliamentary committee faults ``safety surcharge''
Comprehensive strategy sought to improve security

NEW DELHI: The Parliamentary Committee on Railways has come down strongly on the Railways for adopting "deceptive practices" to impose financial burden on the passengers in an indirect manner by including "safety surcharge" in the actual fare.

The Committee also called for a comprehensive security strategy to deal with the menace of terrorism, naxalite attacks and other disruptive forces causing loss of lives and property.

Report tabled

In its 27th report tabled in Parliament on Thursday, the Committee said that out of the Rs. 17,000 crore allocated for the Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF), Rs. 5,000 crore was to be mobilised by the Railways through levy of a "Safety Surcharge."

The Committee noted that after the expiry of the period of SRSF, safety surcharge would be subsumed in the actual fare and the revenue generated would be utilised for funding the construction of a dedicated freight corridor. "The Committee does not agree with such an arrangement. The Committee in this connection would recall its report on `Demands for Grants 2006-07' where it had disapproved of the policy of the Railways putting an indirect burden on the commuters. It strongly recommended that the Railways refrain from adopting such deceptive practices."

Noting with distress that the Railways had become a soft target for terrorists, naxalites and other disruptive forces, the Committee desired that the Railways in collaboration with State police, intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces evolve a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to strengthen and improve security.

Interestingly, the Committee noted that there were discrepancies in the documents presented to Parliament by the Railways.

The Railway Board Chairman during his submissions before the Committee indicated there had been an incorrect representation of information provided by the Railways to the Committee regarding budget surplus and net revenue.

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