In response to a Right to Information (RTI) query, the Railways reported to have earned an additional Rs 2,242 crore from senior citizen travellers in 2022-23 as a result of revoking concessions that were previously offered to them. The national transporter generated Rs 1,500 crore between 20 March 2020 – the onset of the Covid pandemic, and 31 March 2022.
In its RTI reply filed by Chandra Shekhar Gaur of Madhya Pradesh, the Railways stated that between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023, it did not offer concessions to roughly eight crore senior citizens, which included around 4.6 crore men, 3.3 crore women, and 18,000 transgenders.
The RTI reply further stated that the national transporter earned a total revenue of Rs 5,062 crore from senior citizens, including an additional Rs 2,242 crore, which was earned due to the suspension of the concession.
Earnings from senior citizens have increased at a steady pace. Between 20 March 2020 and 31 March 2022, the railways did not offer concessions to 7.31 crore senior citizen passengers, which comprised of 4.46 crore male passengers aged 60+, 2.84 crore female travellers aged 58+, and 8,310 transgender people.
Female senior citizen travellers are eligible for a 50 per cent concession, while male and transgenders senior citizen travellers can get 40 per cent in all classes.
The concessions, which were revoked in March 2020 in the wake of the Covid pandemic, have remained suspended till date. While train services also remained suspended during this time, along with parts of 2021, the demand for ticket concessions resurfaced as train services normalised again.
Railway concessions have been a highly debated topic over the last two decades, with multiple committees calling for their withdrawal. This amounted to the Railways making concessions optional for the elderly in July 2016.
According to official records, the Railway system has accumulated a significant amount of debt, approximately Rs 2,000 crore annually. This is primarily due to the 53 various types of discounts that are offered to different categories of passengers. Senior citizens are the largest beneficiaries of these concessions, accounting for 80 per cent of the total discount amount.
The Supreme Court dismissed a plea on 28 April 2023, seeking the restoration of concessions for senior citizens in railway ticket prices.