Senior citizen fare concessions restored by Indian Railways, states Ashwini Vaishnaw in post-covid move

Indian Railways is contemplating the reintroduction of pre-Covid senior citizen fare concessions, according to a statement by Ashwini Vaishnaw. The potential move reflects consideration for returning to previous travel policies in response to evolving conditions.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw addressed the ongoing rumours about the Indian Railways bringing back the discounts on train tickets for the elderly and media in a recent statement. Questions concerning the possible restoration of the pre-Covid 50% fare reduction for senior citizens and journalists with government accreditation have emerged in response to the discussion gaining traction.

Vaishnaw pointed out that every passenger already receives a significant 55% discount on train fares from Indian Railways, even though she did not directly address the question. This response highlights the larger context of concessions in the railway industry and raises some of the difficulties associated with reviewing the earlier fare policies.

Senior citizens and journalists with official government accreditation received a substantial 50% discount on train fares from Indian Railways before the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. These concessions were, however, postponed due to the lockdown’s suspension of railway operations. The pre-Covid concessions were not restored even after train operations resumed in June 2022, which raised questions and concerns among different stakeholders.

The topic has been discussed in both chambers of parliament and on a variety of other forums. On Thursday, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw provided clarification on the current fare structure, saying, “Railway charges only ₹45 for a train ticket to a destination that costs ₹100. It is conceding ₹55. This explanation sheds light on the current fare dynamics and the amount of the passenger concession that is being provided.

In response to an RTI application from Madhya Pradesh’s Chandra Shekhar Gaur, the Indian Railways disclosed that in the fiscal year 2022–2023, it received about ₹2,242 crore from about 15 crore senior citizens. The aforementioned data highlights the noteworthy impact of senior citizens on railway revenues and throws light on the financial ramifications of granting them concessions.

In November of the previous year, Minister Vaishnaw informed Lok Sabha that the Indian Railways had subsidized passenger tickets by ₹59,837 crore in 2019-20, and this concession continues. This subsidy corresponds to an average concession of 53% for each rail passenger. The fact that this subsidy is still being offered shows that passengers will continue to have access to reasonably priced transportation options.

Additionally, Vaishnaw emphasized that benefits above and beyond this subsidy amount continue for several categories, such as eight student categories, eleven patient categories, and four categories of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjans). About 18 lakh patients and their escorts took advantage of this special concession in the fiscal year 2022–2023, demonstrating the wide range of beneficiaries from these policies.

Concessions have a significant financial impact, but their wider social effects should also be considered. Accessibility and affordability for a variety of population segments are greatly enhanced by concessions for patients, students, seniors, and people with disabilities. These compromises are in line with the overarching objective of encouraging equity in access to public transportation and inclusivity.

The argument surrounding the reinstatement of senior citizen fare breaks illustrates the delicate balancing act Indian Railways must undertake between social responsibility and financial viability. A thorough understanding of the economic ramifications and the effects on various passenger demographics is necessary before deciding whether to keep or reinstate the current concession policies.

It’s unclear how the Indian Railways will handle this tricky situation while talks go on. A detailed analysis of the concessions’ financial sustainability, the beneficiaries’ demographics, and the wider societal ramifications will probably be among the factors taken into account. The outcome of this discussion will ultimately influence future fare policies on Indian Railways and establish the degree of accessibility and inclusivity in the nation’s rail network.

In the end, the choice will highlight how public transportation policies are dynamic, adapting to the demands of various populations while negotiating the challenges of long-term financial viability