India

India railways: Mukul Roy sworn in as new minister

India's Railways Minister Mukul Roy stands to attention as the national anthem is played during the oath-taking ceremony at the presidential place in New Delhi March 20, 2012.
Image caption Mukul Roy earlier served a stint as as a junior railway minister

Mukul Roy has been sworn in as India's new railway minister after his predecessor resigned over the weekend in a spat over his ticket price rise.

Dinesh Trivedi quit after his Trinamul Congress party, a key ally of the government, after he refused the party's demand to roll back the rise.

Mr Roy announced modest passenger fare rises last week, the first in nearly a decade on the huge state-run system.

The party had nominated Mr Roy, another party MP, for the job.

India's state-run railway operates 7,000 passenger trains and carries some 13 million passengers daily.

Hours before Mr Roy was sworn in, a train crashed into a vehicle at an unmanned level crossing in Uttar Pradesh state, killing 15 people travelling in the vehicle.

'Difficult phase'

Mr Roy was the junior minister for shipping before he took over as the federal railway minister on Tuesday morning. Earlier, he had served as a junior railway minister.

Correspondents say Mr Roy is expected to roll back some of the fare increases, a key demand of his party leader, Mamata Banerjee.

Mr Trivedi raised the fares in last Wednesday's railway budget by a maximum of 30 paisa ($0.006; £0.0038) per km, saying the network was passing through a "difficult phase".

However, within hours of the announcement, Ms Banerjee, rejected the increase and sought the resignation of the minister.

Mr Trivedi stepped down on Sunday evening after speaking to Ms Banerjee.

Mr Trivedi had said he had been advised to impose a big fare increase as there had been none in nearly a decade, but had opted for a modest rise instead, out of "concern for the common man".

Railways officials say the jump in fuel prices over the last eight years has badly affected their bottom line.

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