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Protest in northern India over steep hike in rail fares

Published on Jun 21, 2014 3:17 PM
Indian activists of the Communist Party of India-Marxists (CPI-M) burning an effigy representing Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their protest against the price hike in railway fares, in Hyderabad on June 21, 2014. The government has increased the railway passenger fare by 14.2 per cent and freight charges by 6.5 per cent with effect from June 25 (midnight of June 24). -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Angry demonstrators blocked a railway track in northern India on Saturday in protest against a steep hike in rail fares announced by the government in its first tough step aimed at reforming a sluggish economy.

Scores of flag-waving protesters shouted slogans demanding an immediate rollback in the fares during the demonstration in Uttar Pradesh's Allahabad city, which held up rail traffic for nearly an hour. TV footage showed protesters getting on to the tracks and forcing the Ganga-Gomti passenger train to halt.

Rail passenger fares were on Friday increased by 14.2 per cent and freight rates by 6.5 per cent with effect from June 25. Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda said he was "forced" to take the step in order "to meet all the necessary expenditure", hinting at the financial crunch the network is facing.

The Indian railway system, one of the world's largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the huge country. But years of financial neglect and populist policy of subsidising fares have hit the network hard.

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