BENGALURU: The decision by Indian Railways to permanently withdraw the concession in train fares for senior citizens has upset the beneficiaries thoroughly. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who had specified this in the Lok Sabha in a written reply in March this year, reiterated this at a press meet in Chennai last week. With normalcy returning to travel across sectors, seniors were hoping their subsidised travel withdrawn on health and safety grounds during COVID-19 from March 2020 would be restored.
CPI MP from Kerala Binoy Viswam on Monday urged the Railway Minister to restore it as crores of senior citizens have been affected due to its withdrawal.
Senior citizens have enjoyed this privilege for decades with men (60 years and above) given a 40% discount on the train ticket and women (58 years and above) given 50% on it. The Minister in his briefing stated that the move would not be restored as Railways was already operating at a subsidised rate with Rs 45 only collected from any passenger for every Rs 100 spent towards operational expenses.
TNIE spoke to a cross-section of senior citizens to gauge the mood. 74-year-old R Rajammal is upset over the move. "There are very few privileges we are given as seniors. This was an important one and it must be brought back. It just shows that the government does not value its elderly. We travel far less compared to youngsters," she said.
67-year-old K.N. Krishnaprasad, also a vocal rail activist said, "I really hope better sense prevails on the Indian Railways soon. It is never nice to withdraw some benefit or concession already provided. The huge concession on train fare is the main reason seniors prefer train fare over airfare."
Senior citizen Anil Verma, who had reached Cantonment railway station on Monday from Palakkad said, "I can afford the full fare and so have never availed the concession. But countless elders use them daily. It is in the interests of all that it needs to be restored."
An elderly couple who had arrived in the City from Chennai wished for it. "I will really be relieved and happy if it is restored," said A Lalitha, a homemaker. Her husband, C S Padmanabhan, a retired banker said, "We had to pay Rs 600 each for our AC 3-tier ticket for this trip. It used to be Rs 450 for me and Rs 400 for my wife earlier."
Asked about it, Chief Public Relations Officer, South Western Railway Zone, Aneesh Hegde said, "It is a policy decision by the Railways. The Zone is adhering to it. However, we still provide concessions to four categories of Divyangjans, eleven categories of patients and students."