K. Balchand

NEW DELHI: This is the second time Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has sought to help the unorganised labour sector by announcing a monthly season ticket to travel to cities for their livelihood.

She, however, made it clear that only those earning less than Rs. 1500 a month could avail themselves of this facility. The season ticket costs Rs. 25.

In her earlier stint, Ms. Banerjee had limited the scheme to those earning less than Rs. 400 a month. But for technical reasons, the railway authorities failed to frame the policy and implement it. Her successors did not take it up either.

Soon after taking office, Ms. Banerjee had renewed her commitment to this section and spoken about raising the income ceiling to Rs. 500. But in her budget proposal, she raised it substantially to Rs. 1500.

Asked how practical the initiative was, Railway Board chairman S.S.Khurana said the necessary guidelines would be framed and the beneficiaries would be properly identified.

Rs. 1500 rider

As for the Rs. 1500 rider, observers feel it is far from attractive. Those earning less than Rs. 50 a day and much below the prescribed minimum wages could hardly afford to buy a monthly ticket of Rs. 25.

Besides, their daily search for a manual job has no charted destination and it is unlikely to involve any kind of travel.

That technicalities continue confront the railway authorities was clear from the Minister’s announcement that MPs, Ministers and district officials would be authorised to identify the beneficiaries. It would be difficult for political leaders to refuse such a certificate to anyone approaching them. There is also the fear that it would lead to misuse of the scheme by the politicians.

Even with respect to the low cost air-conditioned trains for the youth, the railways officials seemed to be in a dilemma. Since only seating arrangement would be provided, only young persons will be able to withstand journeys lasting up to 12 hours, they feel.