New Delhi, Sep 21 : The Congress on Wednesday took a dig at the government for its move to merge the railway and general budgets, saying it was an attempt to divert public attention from the government move to make rail travel expensive.
“We are least concerned about cosmetic, superficial and no substantive changes. What we are concerned with is that the government should spell out through the media point-wise benefits to the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man) from the so-called merger,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters here.
“We are not against the merger; we are not for the merger; the more relevant question is not to divert attention through these dramatic things but to tell you why certain train fares are going to be higher than even air fares,” the Congress leader said.
“The government should not try to fool all the people all the time. Do not try to digress and divert. Let us address these issues. You have concrete answers to these, but we have not heard answers,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said it was not clear how the merger will help the railways.
“What really needs to be the government’s priority is to ensure there are some firm policies in place where the railways can manage to make a turnaround,” Chaturvedi told IANS.
The government on Wednesday announced to do away with a 92-year-old colonial legacy of separate general and railway budgets by unifying them and doing away with differentiated plan and non-plan expenditure.
Chaturvedi said: “The railways has periodically effected fare increase but passenger flow is not increasing. It also added new capacities for coal transportation but that too has not picked up, causing it a loss of over Rs 3,000 crore.”
Taking a potshot at the government’s move to advance the presentation of the general budget, the Congress leader said: “Dates do not bring about changes; policies and the initiatives bring changes.”
The government should instead focus on new policies and initiatives,” she added.
BJP leaders, however, described the merger as a historic decision for economic reforms.
Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi tweeted: “Merger of general and rail budgets is a major decision of the Narendra Modi government for economic reforms. It will boost economic progress.”
BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said: “It is an end of a colonial legacy. The merger will save much time and effort which can be used for ushering in more development and further boost economic progress.”