A row erupted on the Internet after Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao tweeted that the there was ‘zero contribution’ from the central government for the ‘shramik trains’ to take migrant workers home. KTR on Tuesday tweeted, "As a responsible Govt, Telangana has so far run 75 trains; shramik specials, ferrying one lakh plus people to various states. State has paid over ₹6 Cr to Railways & not charged even a single Paisa to workers. Food & water included. Zero contribution from GoI; strange but a fact. (sic)"
This was followed by Twitter spats as accounts affiliated to the BJP accused the minister of ‘playing politics’, and ‘spreading false information’. Later, South Central Railway claimed that the Rs 6 crore paid by the Telangana government is only 15% of the ticket fare, and the remaining 85% has been borne by the central government.
As a responsible Govt, Telangana has so far run 75 trains; shramik specials, ferrying one lakh plus people to various states— KTR (@KTRTRS) May 19, 2020
State has paid over ₹6 Cr to Railways & not charged even a single Paisa to workers. Food & water included
Zero contribution from GoI; strange but a fact
So was KTR wrong in saying that the central government has not contributed to the train tickets of the migrant workers? Not entirely. In fact, the 85% that the central government says is its contribution to the travel is on the basis of technicalities.
What makes up the 85%
The central government is charging the full, regular ticket price for each person boarding the shramik trains. For instance, if the ticket price from Bengaluru to Patna is around Rs 900 on IRCTC, that’s the price that Railways is charging per head. State governments have to decide whether to bear this cost, or transfer it to migrant workers.
Telangana, as KTR rightly pointed out, has been paying the ticket price to the Railways from the state government’s kitty.
So where does the 85% calculation come from? The central government is calculating the existing subsidy from the Railways to citizens – Railways, has always been subsiding about 57% of the cost of running trains, and has calculated that as part of its ‘contribution’ to the travel of migrant workers.
Besides this, the trains are not running at full capacity in order for people to maintain physical distancing norms. So instead of 70-72 people per coach, the shramik trains take on board only 54 people per coach. The cost of the remaining ‘seats’, and the cost of the ‘return journey’ of the train are added as part of the central government’s contribution, making up the 85% number.
However, BJP supporters decided to troll KTR, claiming he was lying because Telangana ‘doesn’t own the Railways.’
One Twitter user said, “Are you trying to say that Railways comes under Telangana government and not Centre? And what about food provided by railways? Instead of playing politics in this hour of crisis you should rather give credit to Centre where it’s due."
Telangana owns railways ? Shramik trains are run by Telangana?— #StayHome (@ExSecular) May 20, 2020
Are you trying to say that Railways comes under Telangana government and not Centre?— swadeshi mojito (@desimojito) May 20, 2020
And what about food provided by railways?
Instead of playing politics in this hour of crisis you should rather give credit to Centre where it’s due
Centre asked states to collect money from migrants?
Additionally, people are also outraging over whether the central government had asked state governments to collect money from migrant workers to board these trains.
A letter from the Principal Executive Director (Coaching), Railway Board on May 2 addressed to general managers of states said, “The local state government authority shall handover the tickets to the passengers cleared by them and collect the ticket fare and hand over the total amount to railways.”
(1)Liars are more dangerous than Corona. To expose with facts here are some documents very much in public domain :— krishanKTRS (@krishanKTRS) May 20, 2020
Copy 1 - Ministry of Railways ask State Govts to collect Fare from Migrant Labour & give to Railways
•NOTE• - Telangana didn't collect a single rupee @KTRTRS https://t.co/w6F6LODGgG pic.twitter.com/QTaJw4yWoh
While this was seen as Centre’s instruction to states to collect the money from migrant workers, BJP spokespersons later said that it was upto state governments to decide whether to collect the money from workers, or to pay it from their own funds.