Ministry of Railways, Government of India today said Indian Railways collected Rs 433 cr from the nearly 63 workers who were mass-evacuated using Shramik Special trains during the COVID-19 lockdown.
However, it maintained that it did not charge the workers any money, and the amount was collected from those who organized Shramik trains — primarily state governments — and that too, at levels that were below its normal charter charges.
On average, Indian Railways collected Rs 685 per person who had to be evacuated using Shramik Special trains.
Railways also said it provided 1.96 cr meals to these evacuees on Shramik Special trains, which works out to around 3.1 meal per person. It did not specify whether these meals were provided free of charge or were sold to the workers fleeing the cities back to their villages.
A total of 97 people lost their lives on Shramik Special trains, Ministry of Railways added.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal also added that not even a single case of anyone catching the COVID-19 virus while traveling on a train has been reported in India so far.
The reported deaths were have been due to factors such as “cardiac arrest/heart disease/brain hemorrhage/pre-existing chronic disease/chronic lung disease/chronic liver disease etc,” the ministry said.
WORKERS NOT CHARGED
Indian Railways maintained that it did not charge the people who were fleeing the cities to escape COVID-19 any money.
Instead, it said, the fee was charged from the state governments as organizers of the evacuation effort.
In fact, Railway minister Piyush Goyal said, the Indian Railways offered discounts to state governments and others who requested Shramik Special trains.
“Shramik special trains were requisitioned by State Governments. In
normal circumstances such special trains are booked by state Governments/any agency or by an individual on Full Tariff Rates which include normal fare for both directions, service charge, empty haulage charge, detention charge etc. Indian Railways allowed booking of Shramik Special on normal fare for one direction only,” he said.
“Railways did not collect any fare directly from passengers,” he added.
Over the four months from May to August, a total of 4,621 Shramik Specials were operated.
Gujarat was the state that saw the biggest evacuation, at 1,033 trains — or about 15 lakh workers.
It was followed by Maharashtra at 817 trains and Punjab at 429 trains.
Out of the 4,621 trains, 3,353 were to just two states — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Piyush Goyal also denied reports of mass delays in the train service, with some trains having been reported to have ‘lost their way’ and ending up in places far away from their destination.
“Most of the around 4600 trains ran as scheduled trains on average speeds of Express trains either on time or with small delays,” Goyal said.
“As most of the Shramik specials were run towards Eastern part of the country on specific routes only to ease congestion on these routes, very few
trains were routed through alternate non-congested routes between 20th and 24th May, 2020 during the peak phase of Shramik special operations.”