Despite the Ministry of Home Affairs directing it to move migrant workers, pilgrims and students who are stranded across various parts of India, the railway board has decided to take matters into its own hands. The home ministry had asked the states to bear the burden of the tickets, stressing that not a penny would be borne by the migrant workers. However, the railway board announced an extra charge of Rs 50, according to this report in The Hindu, which is in addition to the normal sleeper class fare. The Rs 50 is divided as Rs 30 and an additional charge of Rs 20 adding that state governments will coordinate and can pay on passengers’ behalf, a Hindustan Times report said.
Interestingly, the Centre did not charge a pasia from those Indians stranded abroad. In fact, according to a News 18 report, Air India raised a bill of around Rs 5.98 crore for operating two special flights coming from China. Flights also came to India from Japan, Italy and other parts of Europe, when the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
“Between January 31 and March 22, Air India operated five special flights to evacuate over 1,000 Indian passengers from China, Japan and Italy. It also flew Indians, who had returned from Iran, to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) quarantine facilities in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer from Delhi. The bill for all these tickets was footed by the Ministry of External Affairs,” the report added.
However, migrant workers aren’t so lucky, as many states have started charging migrant to get home. In Maharashtra, according to a report in The Hindu, migrant workers are paying Rs 800 for a train ticket to go from Bhiwandi to Gorakhpur.
Meanwhile in Gujarat, according to this Ahmedabad Mirror report, migrant workers were told to pay Rs 250 per ticket. Furthermore, the report added that despite the home ministry’s directive that the migrants needed to be provided with food, they were not and went hungry. In some cases, political leaders from both Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh funded the migrant workers.
In Madhya Pradesh’s capital Bhopal, migrant workers were told to pay Rs 315 for their journey, according to this ABP report.
Bus services, too, have been overcharging. Private bus operators suggest that they are charging extra because they have to carry only 50 per cent of the bus capacity. Karnataka, too, migrant workers were paying as much as Rs 1,600 for a ticket to go back home, according to this report in The Hindu. However, buckling under pressure, the state government withdrew its decision, but haven’t declared the new revised ticket fares, according to this Deccan Herald report.
An NDTV report also stated that Kerala asked the migrant workers to pay for the tickets, while the state arranged for the food through IRCTC.
Free Press Journal reporter Sangeeta Pranvendra also told us that migrant workers stranded in Rajasthan were asked to pay the ticket amount with an additional Rs 50. However, local NGOs are writing to the railway body demanding that the workers be sent home free of cost.
As questions are being raised over why the migrant workers are paying for their tickets, one needs to also wonder about the disconnect between the Ministry of Home and the Railway Board.