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Fact Check: No, the migrant laborers will not have to pay for tickets in Shramik Special trains

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According to the railway ministry spokesperson, none of the passengers will have to buy tickets as the concerned state governments will have to coordinate and pay for the tickets. However, some states are charging fare from the passenger.

On May 1, 2020, the Indian Railways began operating ‘Shramik Special’ trains to transport migrant workers, tourists, pilgrims, students and others, who were stranded due to the nationwide lockdown effective March 22, back to their home States.

The decision follows revised guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allowing the movement of such people by railways. 

Following this, many people on social media are criticizing the government for charging money from these stranded migrant laborers for tickets on these trains. Not only this, but many people are also claiming that Railways is charging Rs 50 extra from these laborers.

It started when "The Hindu" published a report claiming that the Railway department will be charging Rs 50 extra per passenger traveling in the special trains being operated.

We also received several requests to verify the claim.

Fact Check

It is true that the Railway Board has issued a circular directing the various railway regions including Southern Railway to charge Rs 50 per passenger in addition to the cost of the Sleeper Class fare. The circular states that the extra charges would comprise superfast charges of Rs 30 and an additional charge of Rs 20. However, these amounts will be paid by the concerned state governments and not the laborers. Unfortunately, The Hindu's report didn't mention this point which has created confusion among people.

According to a railway ministry spokesperson, the special trains are for people who are registered by state governments and are not open to the public at large. Passengers who have been brought to the railway stations by government officials of the sending state will be allowed to board.

Passengers will not have to buy tickets as the concerned state governments will have to coordinate and pay for the tickets.

The railway ministry said the special trains will run from point to point on the request of both the state governments concerned according to home ministry protocols. The railways and the state governments will appoint senior officials as nodal officers for coordination.

The passengers have to be screened by the sending states and only those found without symptoms would be allowed to travel. Sending state governments will have to bring these persons in batches that can be accommodated in the train to the designated railway station in sanitized buses following social distancing norms and other precautions. It will be mandatory for everyone to wear face masks.

Meals and drinking water will be provided to the passengers by the sending states at the originating station, according to the statement. On longer routes, the railways will provide a meal during the journey.

The government of the state in which the destination is located will make all the arrangements for passenger screening and quarantine, if necessary, and provide last-mile connectivity for the people to go home.

Here is the press release by the Ministry of Railways.

Even though the spokesperson of Railway ministry has clarified that the migrant laborers will not have to pay, it seems officials are not following the order as few reports have emerged claiming that the laborers were asked to pay for the ticket.

SOP asking states to collect fares from passengers - cause of confusion

The Indian Railways has issued a set of guidelines for Shramik Special trains. A provision in the SOP said the "Railways shall print train tickets to the specified destination as per the number of passengers indicated by originating state and hand them over to the local state government authority. Then, the local state government shall handover the tickets for these passengers cleared by them and collect the ticket fare and hand over the total amount to Railways."

The SOP has created confusion among people whether migrants will have to pay or not. However, in a tweet, the Railway Ministry has clarified that only those passengers can travel who have been BROUGHT and FACILITATED by State Governments.

Inconsistency across states

As per reports, several states are paying for the tickets. According to reports, Jharkhand has paid its dues. Originating states like Rajasthan and Telangana are also paying for the travel of workers in their states. Gujarat has reportedly roped in an NGO to pay for part of the services.

However, Maharashtra is making the migrants pay some amount of the fare. Karnataka government is also asking travelers to pay for the ticket.

In conclusion: Even though the railway ministry spokesperson clarified that passengers will have to buy tickets, some states are making them pay for the tickets. 

Update: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has tweeted that the migrant laborers will not have to pay any fare as the cost will be split between central government (85%) and state government (15%). However, there is no official clarification yet till 4th May 10:30 am.

Correction: The article was updated to include the SOP asking states to collect fares from passengers. 

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