The discount on rail tickets for senior citizens may not be restored anytime soon. Replying to a question by Maharashtra member of Parliament (MP) Navneet Rana in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the Centre had given Rs 59,000 crore in subsidy for passenger services and the pension and salary bills were very high.
“We have given Rs 59,000 passenger subsidy last year, new facilities are coming. If new decisions are to be taken, we will take them. But as of now, everyone should look into the conditions of the railways,” Vaishnaw said.
“Government gave a subsidy of Rs 59,837 crore on passenger tickets in 2019-20. This amounts to the concession of 53 per cent on average, to every person, travelling on Railways,” he said in a reply to another question asked by four MPs earlier this week.
In addition to concessions, the annual pension bill of the railways is Rs 60,000 crore, the salary bill is Rs 97,000 crore while Rs 40,000 crore is being spent on fuel.
“Apart from this different classes 1st AC, 2nd AC, 3rd AC, AC Chair Car, sleeper class, second class reserved/Unreserved etc are available on different fare structures for the use of passengers including senior citizens who can travel as per their preferences,” Vaishnaw told the four MPs.
Earlier, Vasihnaw had hinted that the concession to senior citizens may be restored “at least in sleeper class and 3AC”.
A Parliamentary Standing Committee in August recommended restoring the discount for senior citizens in sleeper class and third AC. The four MPs KRR Krishna Raju, S Venkatesan, Rajmohan Unnithan and Pallab Lochan Das had asked the minister if any decision has been taken on the recommendation.
“Standing Committee on Railways has advised to review and consider concession to senior citizens at least in sleeper class and 3AC,” Vaishnaw replied.
However, the minister’s recent reply to Rana seems to hint in the other direction.
Rail concession for senior citizens
The Indian Railways used to offer a 40 per cent discount to males aged 60 or above. For females, a 50 per cent discount was given if the minimum age was 58 years.
“Indian Railways grant concession in the fares of all classes of Mail/Express/Rajdhani/Shatabdi/Jan Shatabdi/Duronto group of trains to Male Senior Citizens of minimum 60 years and Female Senior Citizens of minimum 58 years,” rules on IRCTC’s official website said.
“The element of concession is 40 per cent for men and 50 per cent for women,” they added.
The passengers were allowed to avail of the discount by selecting the “Avail Concession” option while booking the ticket on IRCTC’s website. They were required to carry proof of age. Also, they were given an option to forgo full or half concession, if they wished to do so.
On March 20, 2020, the concession for senior citizens was withdrawn due to the Covid-19 pandemic.