As the Rajdhani on Saturday brought 282 passengers — from New Delhi and a few other stations — to Goa, a few passengers The Sunday Express spoke to expressed their grievances on being charged Rs 2,000 for testing while others were happy to be home.
Saturday’s train saw massive arrangements by the state government as they expected over 600 passengers to reach Goa. This came after a train reached Goa from New Delhi with a halt in Margao on Thursday.
While the Shramik Express ferries daily wagers and stranded workers to their home states, the Rajdhani emergency train service is now expected to run at regular intervals, ferrying those who can afford to pay train tickets to return home, or settlers who have their second home in Goa.
“Initially the train bookings were for 629 passengers, but as the train had several stops… we now understand many have got off,” said an official.
The train chugged into the Margao platform around 2.20 pm. The administration had fielded 10 officers to collect Rs 2,000 from every passenger with 10 tables used as barricades for exit from the train platform. Once the testing fee was paid, each passenger was given a stamped pass to take a seat in the state public transport’s bus service to the hospital in Margao where they would undergo TrueNat tests. The buses then left for the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Fatorda where the passengers had to wait for their test results before being sent to home quarantine.
Colonel Anil Jotwani who has a house in Colva was seen requesting a free test, referring to his documents. “I am a retired Army officer and my documents clearly say I am not supposed to be charged this fee. Nobody heard the plea though,” he said. “My children live here and I had to return. I am traveling from New Delhi.”
With Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announcing on Thursday that only non-Goans will be asked to pay for the Covid tests, some were upset with everyone being charged. “I am a Goan from Goa. I cannot return to Delhi. I am from Aldonha and I live and work here… I am willing to go through all the testing and quarantine guidelines but why is a Goan being asked to pay. We are returning home too,” said Linita Fernandes. “We have already paid for our tickets which comes to Rs 3,500.”
There was another case of a family of seven refusing to pay as they kept making calls, including to the office of the Chief Minister, according to one family member. Officials were overheard telling the passengers that they were informed of the guidelines before booking
the ticket, along with an SMS that was sent to them before boarding the train.
Officials said they cannot make exceptions and were directed to charge the testing fee from every passenger. “Emergency trains are going to increase and we are expecting full capacity arrivals. If every test gets paid for by the state government, then we are looking at Rs 15 lakh per train. This is something the state government, especially Goa, cannot afford,” said an official.
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