Following persistent demands by several state governments for special trains to transport stranded migrant workers to their respective states, on May 1, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) agreed to their demand and permitted trains to be used by stranded migrants. According to the MHA notice, special trains would run from point to point on request, as per protocols for sending and receiving stranded persons.
On May 2, the Ministry of Railways issued a press release clarifying the operation of the Sharmik trains, which read "Railways is ONLY accepting passengers BROUGHT and FACILITATED by State Governments. No other group of traveler or individual are allowed to come to station. No tickets are being sold at any station. Railways are not running any train other than being requisitioned by State Governments."
On the same day, the Railway Ministry also published specific guidelines for "Stranded Persons by Charmik Special Trains." The 19-point guideline included issues ranging from the screening of passengers to logistics involved in the operation of special trains. Section 10 & 11(highlighted) of the Guidelines deal with ticket sales, including the requirement of valid tickets to enter the station.
It also stated, "The local government authority shall hand over the tickets to the passengers cleared by them and collect the ticket fare and hand over the total amount to the railways," indicating that migrants will have to pay for Sharmik train tickets.
According to reports, the Railway Board announced an additional charge of 50 per passenger would be collected along with the sleeper class fare. The circular stated that the additional charges would include a super-fast charge of 30 and an additional charge of 20.
The President of the Karnataka Congress announced on May 3 that the party would be giving a cheque worth 2 crores to the state-run bus transport-KSRTC to ensure free transport to the working class and working people who are struggling to get home because of the rates charged by the Karnataka Government. This move resulted in the local government offering free travel to migrants returning to their home in the state.
The Interim President of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, on May 4, said that the party would pay the train fare for migrants heading home in the middle of the lockdown. Declaring that all Congressional State Units would cover the fare for every needy worker and migrant.
The decision to make migrants pay drew criticism from within the ruling party, with BJP MP Subramanian Swamy calling the government's decision "Moronic." Later, however, he claimed that the central government would pay 85% of the ticket costs, while the rest 15% would be contributed by the state government.
Similar rebuttals were echoed by several members of the ruling party.
BJP's National Secretary B L Santosh went a step further to claim that only the opposition ruled states- Rajasthan, Maharashtra & Kerala had made migrant labourers pay ticket charges. Information and Broadcasting Union Minister Prakash Javedkar also made similar allegations against the opposition.
No tickets being sold for special train services amid the anti-coronavirus lockdown
The claim is misleading.
Section 11(c) of the detailed guidelines provides that the local government is responsible for issuing and collecting special train ticket fares, in line with the earlier press release from the Railway Ministry that tickets will not be sold at the train stations. however, tickets issued by the originating state government are required to board the special trains.
The Central and state governments are paying for free travel of migrants
The claim is misleading.
"Based on the request given from states for particular cases, permission was given to run special trains. Be it the government of India or the Railways, we have not talked about charging from workers. 85% of the transportation cost is borne by the Railways, while states have to bear 15% of the cost", said Joint Secretary at the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal. However, there is no further clarification from the Indian Railways or Centre other than this statement.
What Does The 85:15 Fare Sharing Formula Mean?
For regular train journeys, the Railways will recover around 53% of the total money spent on sleeper class ticket fares(the price printed on the tickets), which means that the passenger allowance is 47% of the total cost involved. However, with social distance standards in place, only 1,200 people are allowed to travel on these special trains without returning passengers. As a result of the lower amount being recovered through fares and the operating costs remaining the same, the percentage of the subsidy incurred by the Railways may have almost doubled to about 85%. In normal times, if only 1,200 tickets per train were booked, the government would have to pay the same percentage of subsidies.
According to the same guideline, the remaining 15% must be collected by the State and paid to the railways in due time. However, the guideline does not indicate whether state governments (origin or destination) need to pay the fare or have to collect it from migrant passengers. This apparent oversight has forced several states to adopt different approaches to this issue, which has led to confusion over the distribution of tickets to migrant passengers. With many migrants complaining about paying steep train ticket charges. Ahmedabad Mirror reported that migrants had been charged up to 460 rupees per ticket for travelling from Gujarat to U.P.
According to a Quint report, a worker from BJP's Surat unit has duped around 100 migrant laborers from Gujarat by charging them exorbitant amounts to buy tickets back to their native state.
Given the several reports of migrants being forced to pay for tickets, it can be ascertained that the migrants were/are being charged for returning to their home amid the anti-coronavirus lockdown.
Only non-BJP ruled states are charging migrants for tickets
The claim is false.
Given several reports of migrants being charged in BJP-ruled states of Gujarat and Karnataka, It can be ascertained that the claim is false.
Following the political pressure, The Indian Express reported that all other states, except Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Kerala, had agreed to cover the expenses of returning migrants, including the refund of those who had already paid train tickets. Maharashtra and Kerala thought that migrants should not be charged, however, put the onus on the union government to bear the cost of returning migrants. Several opposition leaders like Sitaram Yechury criticized the union government for not using the "PM Cares Fund" for supporting migrants.
Starting the Sharmik trains and mismanagement around it has highlighted the plight of millions of poor Indians moving from villages to cities in search of livelihood-and how the lockdown left them stranded away from home, without employment or income. Misinformation has added to the misery of 40 million migrant workers across the country, making it difficult for everyone to provide relief.
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