Railways SOP for Shramik Special trains asking states to collect fares draws flakMay 4, 2020
The Indian Railways has issued a set of guidelines for Shramik Special trains being run to ferry the migrants stranded across the country, saying the trains will ply only if they have 90 percent occupancy and the “states should collect the ticket fare”, inviting fierce criticism for charging for their services.
A provision in the SOP, which drew a good deal of flak, said the “local state government shall handover the tickets for these passengers cleared by them and collect the ticket fare and hand over the total amount to Railways.”
“If you are stuck abroad during this COVID crisis this government will fly you back for free but if you are a migrant worker stranded in another state be prepared to cough up the cost of travel (with social distancing cost added). Where did ‘PM Cares’ go? Like I said earlier you were better off getting stranded overseas & flown back home!,” tweeted NC leader Omar Abdullah.
In the SOP, the railways said the responsibility for food, security, health scanning, providing tickets to the stranded will be with the state from which the train is originating.
It has however taken the burden of providing one meal to passengers whose journey will be of 12 hours or more.
While railways has refused to comment on the issue of payments, stating it is a state matter, sources said Jharkhand, which has received two trains till now, has paid its dues. Originating states like Rajasthan and Telangana are also paying for the travel of workers in their states.
Gujarat, the sources said, has roped in an NGO to pay for part of the services.
However, they said, Maharashtra is making the migrants pay some amount of the fare. In fact, Maharashtra Minister Nitin Raut wrote to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, requesting him to bear the cost of ticket.
Railways is charging the fare of sleeper class tickets, plus a super-fast charge of Rs30 and an additional charge of Rs20 for the Shramik Specials.
Hitting out at the Union government for burdening the states, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the situation with migrant workers was a result of the Centre’s abrupt announcement of a lockdown.
“It is very unfair that the entire responsibility has been shifted to state governments. This problem was not caused by states. In Parliament, the government said it bore the entire cost of repatriating Indians stuck abroad. In the same manner the migrants should have been sent back.