Amidst this raging controversy over who will ultimately foot the bill to ferry stranded migrant labourers back home, All India Railway Federation has written a letter to the Congress interim president, Sonia Gandhi requesting her not to play politics over the migrants’ rail fare.
In the letter dated May 7, 2020, the general secretary of All India Railway Federation, Shiv Gopal Mishra tells Sonia that she should think of the safety of the railway workers too, who are sincerely rendering their noble services by risking their lives amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
He clarifies that railways have subsidised 85 per cent of ticket fare for special trains being run to transport migrant workers and the state government has to pay the remaining 15 per cent. This he said was necessary. Since the respective state governments will book the trains by making the payment, it would prevent commuters from huddling up at the stations which might have risked the lives of the railways’ staff as well.
Central govt has started ‘shramik’ special trains which are facilitating the return of migrant labourers back to their home states from the various states where they might be stranded due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Despite Railways and the Centre clarifying that the stranded migrant commuters will not have to pay for the travel, the Congress Party has been creating unnecessary controversy over the issue.
Congress creating needless controversy
On May 4 Congress leaders took to Twitter to claim that since the government is charging money for the railway fare of the stranded migrants going back home on Shramik Special trains, the party will chip in and bear the expenses for the same. This offer to pay for the migrants’ fare came two days after the Railway Ministry had clarified that the state and central governments are facilitating the movement of migrants through Shramik Special trains.
On May 2, 2020, the Ministry of Railways had clarified that no tickets will be sold at the railway station and that the movement of migrants is being arranged by the state governments.
Why railways ask passengers to pay?
The ‘Shramik’ trains are specials trains that have been started by the Railways to ferry stranded migrant labourers from various states across India to their home states. These trains were started after requests by the states and protests by migrant labourers amidst the Coronavirus lockdown and as such, are not open for the public at large. It is the state that has to ensure that migrant labourers in their state are registered and screened and then, they can be ferried through the Shramik train to their home state.
Most importantly, passengers will not have to buy tickets as the state governments concerned will have to coordinate and pay for the tickets. As these are not regular trains, but special trains which will run on the request of state government, there is no provision to buy tickets for those trains. The respective state governments will book the trains by making the payment as charged by the Indian Railways, and the passengers do not have to pay anything.
The central government is paying 85% of the cost that is incurred per passenger to run this train and 15% of the cost in meant to be borne by the state government. Hence, ideally, the state is supposed to make good on that 15% payment through their coffers. However, if the state decides to charge the migrant workers, the only party to be blamed for that is the state government and not the central government. The central government itself it not charging the passengers or selling tickets.