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Punjab IAS officer says Railways not paying 85% of migrants fare, state footing entire bill

BJP had claimed earlier this week that Indian Railways was footing 85% of the migrant workers’ fare for their journey back home.

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Chandigarh: A senior IAS officer of the Punjab government has dismissed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) claim that the Indian Railways is paying 85 per cent of the fare for migrant workers taking the ‘Shramik trains’ back home. 

In a series of tweets posted Tuesday night, Punjab Special Chief Secretary, Revenue, K.B.S. Sidhu said the state government was footing the entire bill. 

“If someone continues to insist that Indian Railways is still paying for 85% of the travel cost, I would say what Americans often do: ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY!’” Sidhu tweeted. 

If anyone has an official document that Indian Railways is paying 85 per cent in cash for the ticket price, “please post it here”, he added.

Also Read: Smiles behind masks, orderly lines, social distancing as stranded migrants arrive home

Govt of India sharing fare?

On Labour Day, 1 May, the central government decided to launch special trains — called Shramik Express — to help migrant labourers stranded by the lockdown return to their home states. 

The railways had initially asked states to collect the fare from the migrants and hand it over to the transporter. However, following widespread criticism, from the opposition as well as within its own ranks, the BJP Monday said the labourers would not have to pay anything. 

The fare, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra tweeted, would be divided between the Government of India and the states where the trains would originate, with the former paying 85 per cent.

In a tweet addressed to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who had criticised the government for making migrants pay the fare, the BJP leader said, “Railways has subsidised 85% & State govt to pay 15% (sic).”

In his tweets, Sidhu said there was no official document “explaining the basis of the figure of 85%”. “Railway Ministry ‘sources’ are telling media such travel is already subsidised,” he added.

“Bottom-line — Punjab government is paying 100 per cent of what the passenger is being asked to pay to board the train. Everything else is either misleading or just notional,” he said.

“Punjab government to also pay for food, water and refreshments of the migrants travelling out by Punjab by trains,” he added. 

Also Read: Social security net could be Modi govt’s route to protect unorganised workers

Punjab sets aside Rs 35 crore for migrants’ travel

The Punjab government has sanctioned Rs 35 crore, in the first phase, towards transporting the migrant labourers stranded in the state, the Amarinder Singh administration said in a press statement issued Tuesday. 

The first train, carrying 1,200 migrants, left Punjab Tuesday for Daltonganj, Jharkhand, followed by two more trains, Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Another two are expected to leave for Uttar Pradesh Wednesday evening.

More than 6.44 lakh migrant workers seeking to return to their home states have registered on a portal created for the purpose, the state government said. 

The state government estimates that 5-6 lakh stranded migrants could opt for train travel from Punjab to their home states, with the rest expected to go by road. 

Taking Rs 640 as the average ticket price, the state executive committee, formed under the Disaster Management Act, has approved Rs 35 crore as the initial amount needed. 

All the workers who wish to travel back to their homes have been enrolled on the state portal. Details of the travel, including train schedule, are being communicated to them via SMS.

Also Read: MGNREGA, skill-based work — options states are weighing to help returning migrant workers


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