2.6k migrant trains to run over 10 days
Indian Railways on Saturday said it will ferry another 3.6 million migrant labourers stranded across the country because of the Covid-19 lockdown on 2,600 Shramik special trains over the next 10 days and will continue running such trains till all of them reach their homes.
“I want to assure all migrant workers that we will run these trains till all of them reach their destinations,” Railway Board chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav said at a press conference.
Yadav said that given the demand for more Shramik specials, 50% of train coaches that were modified as Covid-care facilities will now be used to run them since they remain unutilized. He added that these coaches could be reconverted into care centres again if needed.
Railways converted over 5,000 wagons into care centres to augment the country’s health infrastructure to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Railway officials said that till Saturday, as many as 4.5 million have been ferried on the special trains since their launch on May 1. The trains were launched as migrant workers left jobless because of the lockdown imposed in late March to check the Covid-19 spread were forced to walk or cycle back to their homes. Many of them have continued to do so despite these trains and buses that were arranged for them in late April. In some cases, migrant workers have been unable to travel on these trains for the want of identity documents.
Officials said about 80% of the Shramik trains so far have transported migrant workers to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India’s two most populous states where the bulk of the workforce comes from.
Punya Salila Srivastava, joint secretary, Union home ministry, who also addressed the press conference, cited the 2011 Census and said around 40 million workers migrate for work within the country annually. She added that at least four million migrant workers have also travelled on interstate buses to get back home since the lockdown began.
Railways plans a gradual resumption of regular passenger services with 200 trains from June 1. These are apart from 15 pairs of premier Rajdhani special trains deployed to address the rising demand for interstate travel with the easing of the lockdown restrictions.
“...we decided to run these 200 trains daily from June 1 after studying a pattern. Till now 17 lakh [1.7 million] tickets have already been booked. We have also decided to open all our booking windows as well as [ticket] stalls at all our 6,000 stations so that people do not have difficulties in getting tickets,” Yadav said. He added full resumption of the services may take some time.
Yadav said Railways has moved over double the quantity of essential commodities in around 1.35 million wagons from March 24, when the lockdown was announced, till May 22 as compared to the same period last year. He added railways has provided 4.7 million free packets of meals to passengers and other needy people.
He said 17 railway hospitals have been converted into independent Covid-19 care facilities and 5,000 beds made available across their network for patients and to quarantine up to 10,500 people.