New Delhi: Congress on Thursday demanded immediate rollback of rail surge pricing with Rahul Gandhi targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that his model is to "loot from the common man and give relief to his industrialist friends".
"The speed of the train may increase or not, but Modiji has put the fares on the fast track. Modiji's model is to loot from the common people and provide relief to some of his industrialist friends," the Congress vice-president tweeted.
At the AICC briefing, party's chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala sought immediate rollback of the surge pricing in rail fares that has come as a "rude shock" to people of the country already reeling under the scourge of high prices ahead of the festive season.
"Railway surge pricing is Modi government's ugly gift to India during festival season. Congress demands rollback," he said.
Dubbing the move as "draconian" that would hit the common man hard, he said that the Delhi High Court has already quashed the entire surge pricing concept as arbitrary and excessively burdening the consumer in case of Uber and Ola cabs.
He also alleged that the Modi government has borrowed this "illegal profiteering idea" with a view to "steal" money from pockets of people of India.
"Policy of Railway surge pricing is nothing but an under hand tool to collect Rs 1,000 crore annually by burning the pockets of honest middle class families, who still see railways as the only cost affective and viable option of travel despite its shortcomings.
"It is high time the Modi Government realises its mistake and rolled back this 'tuglaki farmaan'," he said.
Surjewala said the, "Suit-boot Modi government has exposed its true face by taxing ordinary railway passengers by surge pricing but has exempted 1st/Executive Class".
"Corporates get loan waiver of 1,12,000 crore but Modi government will fleece common man through surge pricing of railways. It is shameful," he said.
Passengers travelling by Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto trains will have to shell out between 10 and 50 percent more under a dynamic surge pricing system to be introduced from 9 September, aimed at raking in Rs 500 crore more during the current financial year.
Surjewala said that soon after coming to power and days before the Railway Budget, the Government effected a steep hike 14.20 per cent in 'passenger fares' and about 7 percent in 'railway freight' on 20 June, 2014.
Another hike in freight fare amounting to 4.35 per cent was again effected in November, 2015. This has resulted in a steep hike in prices of all essential commodities, including food articles, he said.
"Battling rising price of essential commodities and run away food inflation, the latest decision by Modi government to impose 'Surge Pricing' through 'flexi fare system' in Rajdhani, Duranto and Shatabdi trains is a rude shock for the ordinary people of India," he said.
Surjewala regretted that instead of enhancing track capacity, introducing new trains, improving services and investing in safety infrastructure, the Government is busy pushing the bullet train between Ahmadabad and Mumbai at a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore.
"The aim obviously is to fulfil the Prime Minister's whims and award contract to foreign companies," he alleged.
Besides, he claimed that the government has been singlemindedly pursuing the agenda of privatizing railways, under the garb of corporatisation.