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All that gas
Apropos of the report 'Kejriwal orders probe into gas pricing issue' (FE, February 11), why blame Reliance chief Mukesh Ambani for the debacle? Rather, he should be praised for his sheer bargaining power! In fact, it is the collective responsibility of the expert body determining gas price and the Government of India. They have to head the blame as a whole. If indeed personal influence, nepotism, money power, etc. play pivotal roles in the abnormal gas price rise and are amply proved in the Court of Law, then Reliance's licence should be cancelled forthwith. Before that mud slinging directed at an internationally-reputed business tycoon like Mukesh Ambani, on political considerations, would give the wrong signal the to world's business community. The incident also puts a big question mark over the credibility of the advisory body, appointed by the government to determine gas price. Was a feasibility study conducted by expert body about exploring gas at K-G basin at cheaper rates in national interest? Did the government take steps to ensure that no violation of norms was done in allowing gas price rise?
Populism ailing Railways
Railways is suffering from a revenue crunch and it shows. The amenities, even on the Rajdhanis, are poor. I travelled recently by what is supposedly the best train the Railways offers. Toilets were not clean, there was no water in compartment in wash basin—it was provided later on, after complaints were made. The food quality had also hit a low.
So, in these times, railway minister Mallikarjuna Kharge leaving the passenger fares untouched seems to be a blessing for the cash-strapped sector. But is the rail budget 2014 really that shorn of populism? No. It is a budget drafted with the elections in mind providing more train routes and no increase in passenger fares when one is long merited. But with the standards expected from the Railways, it is unlikely that fare hikes, even if for the AC classes, would have cut much ice given that amenities in the much-touted Rajdhanis even have fallen. Besides, what guarantee of the safety of passengers exists, especially of women? The railways will also be better off introducing its own taxi-service to ferry passengers in important destinations. To fund Railways, borrowings from tax-free bonds are one option, but this cannot be a long-term solution. The rail budget has become a political tool since the last few years.