Aap Chronology Samjhiye:
- A punitive lockdown, reputedly the most severe in the world, imposed with 4 hours’ notice, stranding millions of migrants.
- Faced with starvation, and having no transport, some migrants begin a long trek back home.
- Some die. An extension of the lockdown is announced and then another.
- Under pressure from all quarters, the central government announces special ‘migrant’ trains.
- Migrants asked to buy tickets – priced like normal.
- Outrage everywhere.
- Congress party offers to pay for the migrants
- BJP panics and claims that center is subsidizing 85% of the tickets
- States should pay the remaining 15%
- Puzzle #1: The guideline issued by the Ministry of Railways itself, in its clause 11 (c), says: 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 the Railways. No mention of subsidy.
- Puzzle #2: Migrants clearly continue to pay – as testified by numerous interviews
SO WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? THE GREAT INDIAN TRAIN ROBBERY IS WHAT IS ON.
The hint comes from 2 lines tweeted by none other than our RSS-man-in-BJP, Mr. B. L. Santhosh. It explains that the 85% being talked about is the subsidy ALL of us enjoy when we buy a ticket – even at normal times.
Karnataka State Road Transport Cooperation (KSRTC) notice where it is mentioned that travel fare will be applicable (from a tweet of AICCTU Karnataka). After severe criticism KSRTC has now reportedly stopped charging an exorbitant fare, after thousands of poor migrants already paid the price.
Effectively, migrants are being asked to pay the normal price. Whether states now pay this (full) price themselves, or civil society does or the congress party actually pays is irrelevant. What BJP has done is called a swindle – a sleight-of-hand! It claimed the central government (and in some instances itself!) will largely subsidize tickets – so people imagine that the price is now just a fraction of the normal price. NOT SO!
To understand what is going on, imagine that at normal times, a ticket costs Rs 53. However, the real cost of running the train is Rs 100. The central government (in fact the Indian Railways) pays the rest of the money – in other words, there is a Rs 47 subsidy. These numbers reflect real percentages that were widely publicized at the time of the last budget [7,8] – the subsidy depends on the type of ticket – but let us stick to the average number. So, at normal times, this ticket costs Rs 53 to the passenger but Rs 100 to the railways. If the trains are run at lowered capacity due to pandemic, not all the places are filled and so the average cost to the railways per person goes up. So the cost to the railways of a ticket becomes, let us say, Rs 353. Now, if the passenger still pays the normal price of Rs 53, the subsidy will be Rs 300, that is to say, 85%.
BJP has now exceeded expectations at the smoke and mirrors game. By a long and obscure calculation, it has concluded that by charging the usual fare to passengers, it is in fact offering an 85% discount. Machiavellian? Goebelian? Chanakya kutniti? Or plain fraud and a big lie. You decide!
And don’t forget to ask a migrant worker how much (s)he is paying to get back home and if possible, help him/her achieve this objective.