Railway fare row for migrants: sources say states except Maharashtra pay for migrants' travel

NEW DELHI: Amid criticism that railroads were charging stranded migrant workers for transporting them home, sources said that payments for the 34 Shramik special trains that have been run so far have been made by state governments, except Maharashtra.

A controversy erupted on Monday after several opposition parties demanded that migrant workers not be charged for the train tickets. While Congress offered to pay for them, the BJP said the railroads were already providing subsidized tickets at 85 percent of travel costs.

The railroads have yet to issue an official statement on the matter, which, unofficially, said it was a political battle, but officials have maintained that it only charged a standard fare for these special trains from state governments, which is only 15 percent of the total cost incurred.

Railways have special Shramik trains that keep empty berths on each coach to maintain social distance. The trains return empty of the destinations under lock and key. Railroads are delivering free food and bottled water. trains so far and we will continue to do so. Nowhere in our SOP have we said that fares will be charged to traveling migrants, said a senior railroad official.

Sources said states like Rajasthan, Telangana, where the Shramik special trains originated, are paying for migrants, while Jharkhand, which has only received such trains, has also paid for the workers' travel.

The Gujarat government has corralled an NGO to pay part of the cost of the trip, the sources said, adding that only the Maharashtra government is charging migrants for the trips.

Maharashtra's state minister has written a letter to Prime Minister Uddhav Thackeray requesting him to bear the travel expenses of migrants leaving the state.

On Sunday, Raut also wrote to the Minister of Railways requesting that the railways bear the cost of transporting migrants from the state.

Meanwhile, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, in a video statement on Monday, said the state government has been giving money to the railways for the transportation of migrants.

No migrant needs to pay for their trip, he said.

Railways are charging the Sleeper class fare, plus a super fast charge of Rs 30 and an additional charge of Rs 20 for Shramik special trains.