SWR (Karnataka) makes most of Railways’ Pass for Poor under ‘Izzat Scheme’

BENGALURU: If monthly season tickets issued by the Indian Railways under its ‘Izzat Scheme’ are any indication to poverty levels, Karnataka has the highest number of poor people and Chhattisgarh the lowest in the country.

Railways issues Izzat tickets to persons certified to be earning less than Rs 1,500 a month. The monthly fee for daily one-way travel of up to 150 km is Rs 25.

Workers in the unorganised sector and those categorised as belonging to low-income groups are entitled to the scheme, which Mamata Banerjee launched in her 2009-10 budget as railway minister. A regular season ticket costs Rs 525 a month. South Western Railway, consisting of the Bengaluru, Mysuru and Hubli divisions, tops the Izzat chart, according to data from the Ministry of Railways under the Right to Information Act.

Within Karnataka, however, while the number of passes issued dropped from 39,511 to 25,305 between 2013-14 and 2015-16, the Mysuru division recorded an increase from 20,536 to 36,736 passes in this period, although officials suspect the authenticity of poverty claims in a large number of cases. According to authorities, the railways lost Rs 9.5 crore in foregone revenues in 2015-16. There are 16 railway zones in the country covering 70 divisions.

In 2015-16, these divisions together issued 1.89 lakh Izzat passes, of which Karnataka accounted for the largest chunk of 72,016 passes. The Southeast Central Railway, administering Bilaspur, Raipur and Nagpur divisions, issued the fewest passes —206. What could provide some relief to authorities is that the number of people claiming Izzat passes dropped last year.

While 3.19 lakh people claimed these passes in calendar year 2013, the number dropped to 1.62 lakh in 2014-15. The 2016-17 numbers will show whether these numbers are falling further or holding firm. “When I was the railway minister, there were suggestions to discontinue with the scheme,” said D.V.Sadananda Gowda, minister for statistics and programme implementation. “But, then, we decided to continue since the scheme targeted poor people.”

While launching the scheme, Banerjee had said: “The scheme aims to provide an opportunity to the poorest of the poor to travel with dignity.” Her successor Dinesh Trivedi increased the daily one-way trip from 100 km to 150 km in his 2012-13 Budget.

“We have no problem even if these passes are given free of cost as long as the users are genuinely poor and deserving of them, but only concerned whether how many are genuine” said V Ravichandar, Chairman, Feedback Consulting.