You may not notice it if you do not go through the contents of the railway ticket for your journey, but there is one entry under which you pay from Re. 1 to Rs. 100 per ticket which has been harshly commented upon by the Standing Committee on Railways (2007-08), Fourteenth Lok Sabha headed by CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharya.
Apart from the fare and supplementary and reservation charges, the entry is called the Development Fund surcharge and is aimed at raising money for financing the Dedicated Freight Corridor which is likely to cost Rs. 22,000 crore according to the present estimate.
This surcharge takes place on the Special Railway Safety Surcharge which used to be levied for five years beginning 2001-02 and was to have expired by March 31, 2007. This surcharge was aimed at raising Rs. 5000 crore from passengers for funding the projects recommended by the Justice H.R. Khanna Committee on rail safety. Of the total cost of Rs. 17,000 crore on the recommendations, the Centre was to pay Rs. 12,000 crore and the passengers Rs. 5000 crore.
This arrangement ended on March 31, 2007 and with the Rs. 17,000 crore, all the recommended safety measures were taken, which has resulted in the improvement of the safety performance of the Railways during recent days.
From April 1, 2007, the safety surcharge should have been withdrawn. It was. But Railways changed the name safety surcharge by ?Development Surcharge? and the same rates continued.
The Standing Committee looked askance at this, and in its report presented to the Lok Sabha on April 16, 2008 it remarked: ?The Committee notes that after expiry of the period of the Special Railway Safety Fund, ?safety surcharge? is being subsumed in the actual fare as : Development Fund and is still being charged from the passengers.? The Committee recalls its earlier report on ?Demand for Grants-2007-08 where it had disapproved (of) this policy and had strongly recommended that the Railways should refrain from adopting ?such deceptive practices.? The Committee reiterates its earlier recommendation and desires that the practice should be discontinued forthwith.
There does not appear to be any impact of this recommendation, ostensibly on the ground that the Railways need not go to Parliament for seeking approval for levy of surcharges.
In case you are interested to learn how much you are being mulched by the Railways for their adoption of this ?deceptive practice?, it is Rs. 100 in AC first class for journeys beyond 500 km, Rs. 80 per ticket for AC two tier, Rs. 40 per ticket for first class in Mail and Express, Rs. 60 per ticket for AC three-tier class, Rs. 40 per ticket for AC chair car, Rs. 20 per ticket for sleeper class in Mail and Express trains, Rs. 2 per ticket for second class in Mail/Express trains, Rs. 40 per ticket for first class ordinary, Rs. 20 for sleeper class ordinary and Re. 1 for second class seating (reserved).
Except for Re 1 and Rs. 2 surcharges, the amount will be halved for passengers traveling for less than 500 km. The total amount comes to about Rs. 1000 crore a year.