THE governments decision to increase the fares of Pakistan Railways by 15 percent in the wake of a hike in oil prices is unfair to the public at large. The hardest hit will be the passengers belonging to the lower middle classes who prefer trains for convenience and affordability. Public transport and inexpensive travel facilities are among the basic services a state has to provide its citizens. So jacking up the prices at a time when inflation is making the bid for survival most difficult, is simply outrageous. Prime Minister Gilani had better recall to mind the ABC of his partys manifesto which says that it would see to it that people were provided with food, shelter and clothing. On the other hand, the Minister for Railways has stated that the department has turned into a white elephant and was in urgent need of 300 new engines. He also talked about the ageing tracks and outdated infrastructure and equipment. In other words, he is telling us that he has failed to set things right at his end. Busy round the clock in politicking inimical to the countrys interest manifested from his humming and hawing against Kalabagh Dam at a press conference supposed to be about the fare hike, he has done little spadework on how the countrys railways could be revived along modern lines. Affordable train travel gets all the more importance owing to dilapidated roads, as people wishing to travel longer distances largely rely on railways. The government must seriously think how it intends to make the department truly useful to the common man. It is hard to buy the argument that it is incurring heavy losses, given all the corrupt practices starting from the ticket counter to the top most cardres. The horrible accidents like the Ghotki triple train accident in 2005 that killed over 100 people, and the recent one in which a school van carrying children was pulverised to pieces, bear testimony to the fact how the department has fallen into a state of neglect.