Seniors don’t get train subsidies, MPs get crores, shows records of the centre
In March 2020, the Indian Railways discontinued its senior citizen discounts. However, it kept subsidizing train tickets for MPs and former MPs.
In the previous five years, the centre has spent more than 62 crore rupees on travel subsidies for MPs.
In New Delhi: According to papers obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Indian Railways has been rejecting discounts to older people, claiming the need to reduce its subsidy expenses, while MPs received millions in free and reduced train tickets.
In March 2020, the Indian Railways discontinued its senior citizen discounts. However, it kept subsidizing train tickets for MPs and former MPs. According to information obtained through RTI requests, the centre has spent more than 62 crore rupees on discounts for MPs and former MPs travelling by train during the previous five years.
According to the Lok Sabha secretariat’s response to an RTI inquiry, “The MSA Branch processes the bills of debit claims after receiving them from the Ministry of Railways through the Pay and Accounts Office. According to the branch’s records, the MSA Branch processed the following debit claims bills for MPs and Ex-MPs: 3.99 crores in 2021–22, 2.47 crore in 2020–21, 16.4 crore in 2019–20, 19.75 crore in 2018–19, and 19.34 crore in 2017–18.”
Even after the first and second waves of the COVID-19 epidemic were over, the railways have failed to reinstate senior citizen discounts on train rates.
Since the older adults’ discount was eliminated in March 2020—the same month Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the first lockdown during the pandemic—the railroads have made 1,500 crores in money.
“We struggle, and they offer us nothing. The ruling class does not cherish the past. The public has nothing; MLAs and MPs receive a lifetime pension, canteen, and everything. Our concession ought to be reinstated, “Jaganath Gupta, 76, argues.
Men used to receive a 40% discount on railway tickets under government allowances for the aged, while women received a 50%.
The railways stated that between March 20, 2020, and March 31, 2022, 7.31 crore elderly adults travelled without subsidized train tickets in response to an RTI inquiry submitted by Chandra Shekhar Gaur.
Among them are 8,310 transgender persons, 2.84 billion women over the age of 58, and 4.46 billion males over the age of 60. The total revenue from senior citizen travellers during this time was 3,464 crore, including the 1,500 crores made after the subsidy for them was discontinued. We receive little perks compared to MPs and MLAs, even after 30 years of service. We are trustworthy taxpayers. The contributions need to be reinstated. Our MPs and MLAs are given complete freedom to make all decisions on our behalf.
A retired government worker named Chand George calls that an egregious irony.
In March of this year, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw informed Parliament that the government would not be returning the privileges just yet.
Free train rides for MPs have cost the government more than $60 million over the last five years.
According to data made available under the RTI Act, free rail travel for sitting and retired Lok Sabha MPs has cost the government’s coffers 62 crore rupees over the last five years, including roughly 2.5 crores in the pandemic-hit 2020-21.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat stated in its response to a Right to Information (RTI) request made by Chandra Shekhar Gaur of Madhya Pradesh that it had received a bill from the Railways for the travel of sitting MPs and former MPs from 2017–2018 to 2021–2022 totalling 35.21 crores and 26.82 crores, respectively. Additionally, even in the pandemic-hit year of 2020–21, when their expenses were $1.29 crore and $1.18 million, respectively, the MPs and ex–MPs continued to utilize their rail passes.
According to the regulations, sitting members of the Indian Parliament are entitled to free travel in executive or first class on the railroads, and with some restrictions, their wives are also eligible.
Former MPs are also permitted to board any train in the AC-2 class with a partner or in the AC-1 tier if they are travelling alone.
The bills are sent to the Lok Sabha Secretariat for processing by the Railways’ pay and accounts department. A number of incentives that the Railways granted to specific passenger categories, including senior citizens, have lately been suspended.
While there was some restrained indignation about the relocation among some groups, there has been much outrage over the elimination of the senior citizens’ stipend.
Official statistics show that the Railways did not grant discounts to 7.31 crore elderly citizens between March 20, 2020, and March 31, 2022. Among them were 8,310 transgender persons, 2.84 crores older women, and 4.46 crore older men who were males.
Edited by Prakriti Arora