Indian minister quits over fare hike

Railway minister resigns after coming under fire from his own party for his proposal to increase passenger fares.

     Trivedi insisted the hike in fares was needed to better safety [Reuters]

    India's railway minister has resigned after he raised fares on the country's vast but neglected railway network.

    Dinesh Trivedi's resignation and the expected rollback of the fare hike, follow a pattern in recent months of India's leaders announcing economic reforms but, without being able enforce it.

    Trivedi announced the first increase in passenger fares in eight years on Wednesday, a move aimed at shoring up a railway network whose dysfunction is seen to weigh down the country's economy.

    India's infrastructure sliding off the rails [Al Jazeera] 

    The news was positively received by investors but prompted a furious response from Trivedi's own party, a powerful regional ally of the ruling Congress party, that has stood in the way of economic reform in the past.

    Explaining his decision to resign he defended his decision to increase the fares.

    "I'm a loyal soldier of the party," Trivedi said. "I'm worried about (passenger) safety. I did what I did because of the safety."

    Still reeling from defeat in regional elections last month, the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is currently seeking to pass its 2012-13 budget in parliament but is under pressure of his coalition partner, Mamata Banerjee.

    If Banerjee's Trinamool Congress does not support the budget and withdraws from the ruling coalition, the government of Asia's third largest economy would face a no-confidence motion and would have to look to other parties to maintain the majority in parliament.

    In the unlikely scenario that Congress fails to prove it had a majority, a snap general election would be called, two years before the government's term is due to end in 2014.

    If the prime minister agrees to a rollback of the fare hike, it would feed criticism that his government - already reeling from graft scandals - is unable to implement policies needed to lift economic growth, which has slowed to its lowest in nearly three years.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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