New Delhi: It was an action-packed week with sharp reactions to the railway budget, the government diluting FDI norms for sensitive sectors and airlines doing a flip-flop on fares.
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The rail budget on Friday was a bit of a damper with Lalu Prasad Yadav making only a token populist gesture. He announced a nominal 2% fare cut across the board, but kept freight rates unchanged. 43 new passenger trains have been introduced, 14 existing routes extended and frequency of trains on 14 routes increased. In first six months freight earnings rose by 19% and passenger earnings by 14%. Railways expect its overall earnings to rise by 13% next year to Rs93,159 crore.
And airlines did a u-turn and increased airfares by Rs1,000 to Rs2,000 per ticket, just a month after most of them slashed fares and came out with cheap tickets starting at Rs99. Kingfisher Airlines, Air India and budget airlines like SpiceJet and IndiGo have all increased fares, prompting the anti-monopoly watchdog MRTPC to order an inquiry into the coordinated hike.
And on Thursday Pakistani government blinked. It admitted that the Mumbai terror attacks were launched and partly planned from Pakistan. Interior minister Rehman Malik in a press conference said Pakistan was holding in custody a ringleader and five other suspects. Indian external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee said it was a positive step but Pakistan needs to dismantle the terrorist training camps on its soil. Islamabad’s admission is seen as a reaction to president Barack Obama’s policy of tying aid with progress on battling militants. And for Indians it is seen as a major diplomatic win.