GUWAHATI, March 20 - In order to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and to minimise travel-related risks to elderly citizens, Indian Railways has taken steps to discourage senior citizens from undertaking non-essential journeys by removing special incentives which presently exist for their train travel.
�Indian Railways has done this by withdrawing concessional booking of tickets to senior citizens for unreserved and reserved segment with effect from today and till further advisory. This step has been taken to discourage them from making non-essential journeys,� said Subhanan Chanda, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of NF Railway.
He added, �It has been seen that the risk of spread and mortality rate due to COVID-19 is highest among senior citizens as susceptibility increases with age. As the report of the WHO Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease indicates, individuals at highest risk for severe disease and death include people aged over 60 years. It further says that mortality increases with age, with the highest mortality among people over 80 years of age. Amidst the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 and increasing number of cases in India, it has become imperative to curtail its spread and protect the most vulnerable group of population, i.e. people with chronic illness and especially senior citizens.�
Chanda said that withdrawal of such concessions is also part of a wider plan to discourage unnecessary travel by all concerned and hence concessional booking of all tickets has been withdrawn except for patients, students and divyangjan category for both unreserved and reserved segments.
�For railway tickets already purchased till yesterday no difference in fare shall be collected during journey,� said the NFR CPRO.
NFR is taking all precautionary steps to discourage people from taking non-essential journeys and to encourage social distancing by the passengers for their safety to restrict spread of the virus.
�Trains with low occupancy are already being cancelled. Minimum distance markers are being put in place in locations like Passenger Reservation System (PRS) and Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) centres at all important stations so that a safe distance in between two people can be maintained,� Chanda said.
The cost of platform tickets at many stations under NFR jurisdiction has been increased to discourage people from coming to stations other than for essential purpose.
Railway authorities have already given instructions for presence of only 50 per cent staff in all administrative offices with immediate effect.
It is noteworthy that NFR had last week withdrawn the provision of blankets and curtains in air-conditioned coaches of all trains. Sanitising of all critical areas of mass contact in all the coaches and station premises is being done regularly.