On Monday, Congress leaders took to Twitter to claim that since 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.
Railways are not running any trains other than special trains requisitioned by State Govts.— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) May 2, 2020
Passengers BROUGHT and FACILITATED by State Govts. can ONLY travel
No one should come to Station
No tickets are being sold at any station#IndiaFightsCorona https://t.co/6RBWWwIks7 pic.twitter.com/jKI2ZgNxQY
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.
State governments request special train for migrants
Initially there was confusion regarding whether the state governments were to charge the fares. However, senior ministry officials had clarified that the passengers will not be paying 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 official had clarified.
The state governments like Bihar, Punjab and Telangana had earlier requested the Centre for special trains for movement of the migrants as the 40-day quarantine period was coming to an end. Hence, since the state governments themselves had been involved, it was expected that they’d handle the operations.
Soon after the initial confusion, some state governments too clarified that they will bear the fare. On Sunday, 3rd May, 2020, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took to Twitter to clarify Madhya Pradesh State Government will bear their expenses.
संकट की इस घड़ी में मेरे श्रमिक बहन-भाई जरा भी चिंता न करें। मैं आपके साथ पूरी ताकत के साथ खड़ा हूं। विभिन्न राज्यों से स्पेशल ट्रेन से आपको वापस लाने के लिए हम केंद्र सरकार और रेल मंत्रालय के साथ मिलकर प्रयास कर रहे हैं। आपका किराया भी प्रदेश सरकार वहन करेगी। #MPFightsCorona— Shivraj Singh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) May 3, 2020
“In time of difficulty, the migrant workers should not worry. I am standing with you. State government is working with central government and railways ministry to bring you back home. Your fare will be borne by us,” he had tweeted.
Clarification by Railways
On Monday, the Indian Railways official speaking to news agency ANI clarified that the railways is charging standard fare for the special trains which is just 15% of the total cost incurred by the railways. This has to be borne by the state governments.
Till now 34 such Shramik Special trains are run where food and water is also provided for free to the migrant workers.
Railways has run 34 Shramik special trains so far from different parts of the country and is fulfilling its social responsibility of providing safe and convenient travel especially to the poorest of the poor in a time of crisis: Railway Ministry Sources #CoronavirusLockdown— ANI (@ANI) May 4, 2020
Congress offers to pay when there’s nothing to pay
Soon after it was clarified that the fares are not to be borne by the migrant workers, Congress decided to step in and offered to pay non-existent fare the migrants are ‘charged’.
Former Congress President and senior leader Rahul Gandhi took this opportunity to score a few political brownie points.
एक तरफ रेलवे दूसरे राज्यों में फँसे मजदूरों से टिकट का भाड़ा वसूल रही है वहीं दूसरी तरफ रेल मंत्रालय पीएम केयर फंड में 151 करोड़ रुपए का चंदा दे रहा है।— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 4, 2020
जरा ये गुत्थी सुलझाइए! pic.twitter.com/qaN0k5NwpG
After Sonia Gandhi instructed state Congress unites to bear the non-existent fares for migrants, Rahul Gandhi again alleged that the Railways is recovering fares from the stranded migrants. He then questioned the Railways Ministry for donating Rs 151 crore to the PM-CARES fund.
Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel too requested state units of Congress to help migrants with ‘purchasing’ tickets.
As directed by Congress President,in my capacity as Treasuer(AICC) I request Pradesh Congress Committees to mobilise all possible local resources to help migrants purchase tickets to get back home— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) May 4, 2020
Let us make this into a ppl’s movement,pls contact AICC if you require assistance
Here it is again important to reiterate that the Congress is offering to pay for fare for tickets which are already borne by the government and migrants are not charged for the same. So if migrants are not paying for the railway fare, what exactly is Congress offering to pay?