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Railways charging state govts only 15% of total expense, says Centre amid criticism over train fare for migrants

The BJP said on Monday that the Indian Railways has subsidised 85 per cent of ticket fare for special trains being run to transport migrants and the state government has to pay the remaining 15 per cent.

SNS | New Delhi |

Amid criticism over charging migrants for train travel, the Ministry of Railways on Monday clarified that only a standard fare, which is just 15 per cent of the total cost incurred by the railways is being charged from the state governments.

The ministry sources quoted by ANI, also stated that the Indian Railways is not selling any tickets to migrants and is only boarding passengers based on lists provided by states.

Indian Railways is running ‘Shramik Special’ trains keeping berths empty in each coach to maintain social distancing, the sources said, adding that the trains are returning empty from destinations under lock and key and free food and bottled water is being given to the migrants.

The ministry further said that the 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.

The BJP said on Monday that the Indian Railways has subsidised 85 per cent of ticket fare for special trains being run to transport migrants and the state government has to pay the remaining 15 per cent, soon after the Congress attacked the central government over the issue.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that the state government concerned can also pay for the tickets. He said the Madhya Pradesh government is doing so and asked Rahul Gandhi to tell the Congress-ruled states to follow suit.

He was responding to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s attack on the railways for charging poor migrant labourers ticket fare, even as it donated over Rs 151 crore to the PM-CARES Fund.

The Centre has come under fire for charging stranded migrants for train travel amidst the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of novel Coronavirus.

The Congress earlier today slammed the Central government for charging migrants for their ride back home. Party president Sonia Gandhi declared that the Congress would pay the train fare for them.

“The Indian National Congress has been raising this issue from the outset of the lockdown. There need to be provisions for the safe and free rail travel of migrant workers and labourers to their home-towns. However, despite our repeated demands, the Central Government and the Rail Ministry have chosen to completely ignore the same,” Gandhi said in a statement today.

Sonia Gandhi said that when the Government can recognise its responsibility by arranging free air travel for our citizens stranded abroad, why can’t it do the same for stranded citizens.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy also took to Twitter to lash out at the Centre calling the move “moronic”. He pointed out how Indians abroad were flown back free by Air India.

“How moronic of the Government of India to charge steep rail fares from the half-starved migrant labourers! Indians stranded abroad were brought back free by Air India. If Railways refuse to budge then why not make PM CARES pay instead?” Swamy tweeted.

The railways has started to run the Shramik Special trains for transporting the labourers from May 1, almost 40 days after the passenger, mail and Express trains services were suspended.

The first Shramik Special train with 1,200 passengers started on May 1 from Telangana to Jharkhand.

Following the announcement of nationwide lockdown, thousands of labourers were left stranded in different cities. Many labourers walked over hundred of kilometers to reach their home as interstate bus services and train services were suspended since March 24.