(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)
The railway budget in India is usually presented in parliament a few days before the main budget in February. In a rare move, the railways minister on Wednesday announced an across-the-board increase in passenger fares starting Jan. 21, the first such step in nine years.
The increase is significant. A ticket for an air-conditioned coach with three-tier sleeping berths in a mail or express train from New Delhi to Mumbai will cost 1,205 rupees, up 13 percent from 1,065 rupees.
Former railways minister Mamata Banerjee and some political parties panned the government’s move, but reactions have been muted among the media and the public. There was little criticism even on Twitter, with the fare increase not making it to the day’s trending topics.
It seems that the government timed its announcement perfectly. Here’s why:
The Indian media is preoccupied. Be it legal proceedings in the Delhi gang rape case or the border skirmish between India and Pakistan or the arrest of Muslim leader Akbaruddin Owaisi for hate speech — the media has a lot to do. It’s the best time to ensure the railway fare increase is not overplayed in newspapers and on television screens, unless politicians take it to the street.