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Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

New Delhi: After sportspersons and sports associations raised concerns over the withdrawal of railway concessions in passenger fares, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday requested Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to restore the privileges.

The Railways had suspended ticket fare concessions for all categories of passengers except for students, patients and the specially-abled to discourage people from undertaking non-essential travel.

In a letter to Goyal, Rijiju refers to a circular of the Railway Ministry dated March 19, 2020 regarding withdrawal of concessions in passenger fares for the category of sportspersons in view of the health advisory issued regarding COVID-19.

He said the Department of Sports, in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Home Affairs, recently issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and Guidelines for organising sports competitions in the country amid the pandemic situation.

Under the guidelines, sports activities have been permitted with some restrictions and subject to the SOP, he said.

"Now, since the training and sports competitions have started, the sports persons are facing difficulties due to withdrawal of the concession in passenger fares while travelling to participate in all India, state and national level tournaments," Rijiju said.

He said during his interaction with sportspersons and sports administrators, he has been apprised of the difficulties being faced by them due to withdrawal of the Railway concession.

"The Indian Olympic Association has also submitted a representation in this regard. In view of the above, I shall be grateful if you could kindly get the concession restored for sportspersons in passenger fares in the best interest of sports and Indian sportspersons," he said in the letter to Goyal.

The Railways offers 51 different types of concessions to a variety of people including senior citizens who enjoy up to 50 per cent rebate on tickets of all trains during travel on the national rail network.

Teachers, war widows, awardees, artists, sportspersons, farmers, medical professionals and youths are among the different classes who enjoy concessional travel.

In response to a query by PTI, the Railways said it had revised its list of concessions on 20th March 2020 as a measure to discourage travel when the nation-wide lockdown was being enforced to counter the spread of coronavirus.

"The situation is still not normal yet. Regular trains of Indian Railway have not been restored due to that. Only special trains are being run to ensure essential movement of passengers. The pre-Covid concessions were valid only regular trains. They were even then non-applicable for special trains," a Railway Spokesperson said.

"The situation is constantly under review and examination. Appropriate further decisions are being taken in the best interest of all. Indian Railways is committed to the good health, safety and well being of all its travellers. Continuance of removal of some of the concessions is to be seen in that context," the official said.

The Railways further said all stakeholders are being apprised of the situation and the circumstances under which the concessions had been withdrawn.

(With PTI Inputs)

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