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Migrant Workers Told To Pay For Own Tickets To Return Home In Shramik Trains

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Each passenger in the train that left for Puri from Surat on Saturday, May 2, had to pay ₹710. Those who travelled to Agra Cantonment from Ahmedabad paid ₹250 per ticket.

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The Centre started the Shramik Special trains for migrant workers stranded in various parts of the country. But the workers facing cash crunch had to pay for their tickets to travel back home. Till now 31 Shramik trains have run so far and more trains are expected to run in the next 15 days.


Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, and Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot on Sunday, May 3, demanded that on humanitarian grounds and since the workers were already facing economic hardships, the Centre and the Railways bear their expenditure.

Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav said that the decision was consciously taken to ensure that only those who intend to travel were transported.

"Problem is once you make services free, everyone is eligible to travel. Then who is coming to the stations; who all are travelling would become a problem to track. This service is for stranded migrant workers, students etc only and they are allowed to travel only after thorough screening. These trains are not for the general public. So we are charging just nominal fare," Yadav told The Indian Express.

Clarifying that the facility was meant for only such "distressed" persons who were stranded after having started from their places of work before the lockdown, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote a letter to state chief secretaries.

"… (it) does not extend to those categories of persons, who are otherwise residing normally at places, other than the native places for purposes of work etc, and who wish to visit their native places in the normal course," the letter said.

Railways in its guidelines said that while it would hand over the tickets to the originating states, the state would "collect the ticket fare" and hand them over to Railways.

For just one train bringing back students from Kota, Jharkhand paid 5.4 lakh to Kota administration. It is yet to pay for the 1,200 migrant workers who boarded the first Shramik Special Train from Lingampalli in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand.

"Initially, there was some confusion about whether to pay to the States or the Railways. On May 2, an SOP issued by Ministry is Railways makes it clear. It says the fares have to be collected from the passengers," he said.

Point 11(c) of the Railways' SOP on sale of tickets states: "The local State government authority shall handover the tickets to the passengers cleared by them and collect the ticket fare and handover the amount to railways."

Railway Board Chairman Yadav said states were trying out many models of financing the services. "We see three-four models emerging. In many places, employers of labourers have given them the money to go home; in some places, NGOs have sponsored. There are originating states which are paying, and then there are destination states paying to originating states. The services have just started, so the process will get established slowly," he said.

However, on Sunday, May 3, Maharashtra CM Thackeray said, "Migrant labourers are able to return to their homes after many days. Since their financial condition has deteriorated, the Railways should not charge any ticket fare on humanitarian grounds."

Maharashtra Transport Minister, Anil Parab, said that Railways received the ticket fare that was collected from the migrant labourers. "The Central government should take a call on the issue of fares and ask Indian Railway to not charge money for running the Shramik specials. It will simplify the whole process and clear the confusion within the states about who should bear the expense of moving the migrants," said Parab.

The Shramik Special trains are sent back to their originating places empty. Each train has been allowed to carry 1,200, instead of around 1,600.

"Obviously there is no question of profit here. In fact, we are serving complimentary food and water. I have instructed that no matter how many bottles of water a person requires, we should give them. We are giving soap, sanitiser etc. We are not running these services to earn any money," Yadav, Chairman, Railway Board, said.

The Railways is charging non-AC sleeper fare as per distance. With this, it is also charging a superfast charge of Rs 30 and a reserved-berth charge of 20 levied on each ticket.

This was defined in the system for train operations, explained Yadav.

Each passenger in the train that left for Puri from Surat on Saturday, May 2, had to pay 710. Those who travelled to Agra Cantonment from Ahmedabad paid 250 per ticket.

According to Surat District Collector Dhaval Patel, Odiya community leaders were contacted and asked to make a list with names and contact details of people who wished to travel. "The community also collected the travel fare amount from them and gave us the list. An officer of the rank of Deputy Collector went with the community leader to the railway station and collected the 1,200 tickets and paid the fare amount to the railway authorities," he said.

At Nashik, 332 migrants were paid 250 per ticket. They were earlier put up at shelter homes and they left for Bhopal last week. "We ensured that the migrants did not face any problems at the shelter home. But by paying fare for their journey back home, they are travelling with dignity," said Nashik Collector Suraj Mandhare.

Also Read: 18 Migrants Found Hiding In Cement Mixer In A Bid To Reach Home In UP

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Writer : Sumanti Sen
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Editor : Shubhendu Deshmukh

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