As lakhs of migrant workers continue to return to Uttar Pradesh from different parts of the country by special Shramik trains, those coming from Surat in Gujarat have alleged that they were charged Rs 800 against a ticket with a printed cost of Rs 630. The labourers said they had no choice but to pay the money if they wanted to return.
A Shramik special train reached Deen Dayal Upadhyay railway station in eastern UP on Friday evening with migrants from the western state.
Contrary to the claims that the migrants were not asked to pay the train fares for travelling on these special trains, the labourers were not just made to pay for the tickets but were overcharged as well.
The tickets that the migrants were given carried a price of Rs 630 on them, however, they said that they were made to pay as high as Rs 800 per ticket. They said that since they were not left with any choice, they paid the money.
The Railways has maintained that in case of Shramik trains being run to ferry migrant labourers, it only bills the respective state governments and does not collect any fare from the passengers. In effect, the Railways just functions as a transporter and only bills the state government, its customer, and at a highly subsidised cost. And it is up to the state governments to either collect money from passengers or further subsidise the remaining amount.
Speaking to News18 at DDU railway station, a migrant, Sonika, said, "The price that I paid for the ticket is Rs 800, even the food that was served was just plain rice."
Another migrant, Subhash, said he was asked to pay Rs 750 for a ticket that clearly mentioned Rs 630 as the cost of travelling. "We had submitted the money in advance after which when our number came we were taken to the railway station from a bus. Before reaching the station, we were given the tickets in the bus, I think they were middlemen and not railway officials," the he said.
The central government had agreed to run special trains to ferry migrant workers home after 40 days of lockdown, but was criticised for charging fares from the workers already reeling because of job losses caused by the lockdown.
After Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said the party will pick up the tab for the ticket costs, the Centre defended itself and said the cost was being subsidised and the migrant workers were never asked to pay. The Union health ministry’s joint secretary Lav Agarwal claimed that the Centre was bearing 85% of the ticket cost.
But the migrants' have a different story to tell. "When a few of us filled up the forms, our papers were rejected. At least 20 of us in that group were asked to pay Rs 800. When we asked for the reason, we were told that to travel we need to pay this amount or else we can move out of the queue. Those charging money looked like middlemen, they were not railway officials. They took our Aadhaar cards and money and then processed our tickets," Neeraj Kumar said.
Another migrant, Ram Lot Saroj, said, “I am coming from Sachin Palogaon in Surat and I was made to pay Rs 750. The price of the ticket is Rs 630 but I was told that they will give me ticket earlier in tatkaal so I should pay extra money. We were a group of 27 people, our names and Aadhaar cards along with money were taken."
On Thursday, Congress's UP unit had said that it will reimburse the fare for migrants’ tickets charged by the Railways. Led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party demanded the list from the district magistrates of the migrants who had travelled back to the state.
However, UPCC Chief Ajay Kumar Lallu alleged that the government is not responding to their requests of providing the migrants' details.
“As per the directions of our leader Sonia Gandhi, all the PCCs were directed to take care of the train fare of the migrants. We have been continuously asking the government for the list of migrants and a written request was also sent. However, two days have passed but no details have been provided by the government," he said.