MHA okays ‘Shramik Special trains’ for migrants, railways sets terms for travel
Migrant workers, students and others stranded in different parts of the country are allowed to return home by special trains that will be run by the Indian Railways, the Union home ministry said on Friday, expanding the scope of an earlier order that said such transportation can happen only by buses.
The railways ministry will designate nodal officers for coordination with states and Union Territories, the home ministry order said. And soon after, the railways ministry released detailed guidelines on the social-distancing norms to be followed at stations and inside trains. Guidelines on the sale of tickets are expected soon.
On the occasion of Labour Day (on May 1), the government has decided to run “Shramik Special” trains to transport migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons stuck across the country due to the lockdown triggered by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, the railways ministry said.
“These special trains will be run from point to point on the request of both the concerned state governments (those sending and receiving the passengers) as per the standard protocols...The Railways and State Governments shall appoint senior officials as Nodal Officers for coordination...,” the ministry said.
Passengers will have to be screened by states sending them, and those found with no symptoms of Covid-19 will be allowed to travel. These people will have to be brought to railway stations in batches in sanitised buses. Social-distancing norms have to be followed and all passengers will have to use face covers, or masks.
“Meals and drinking water would be provided to the passengers by the sending states at the originating station,” the railways ministry said. Meals will be provided to passengers on trains in case of long journeys.
“On arrival at the destination, passengers will be received by the State Government, who would make all arrangements for their screening, quarantine if necessary and further travel from the Railway Station,” the guidelines said.
The ministry also listed six trains on Friday: Lingampally to Hatia; Aluva to Bhubaneswar; Nasik to Lucknow; Nasik to Bhopal; Jaipur to Patna; and Kota to Hatia
The announcement came hours after the railways ministry ran a special train to ferry about 1,200 stranded migrant labourers from Telangana to Jharkhand in a first-of-its-kind move.
The Centre was under pressure from states, including Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Kerala,for deploying special trains. The recent home ministry guidelines on interstate travel for stranded people permitted movement by buses, on road.
According to state estimates, about 10 million migrant labourers are stranded across the country. The movement of these workers alone is estimated to require 500,000 buses if the Centre’s social distancing norms are strictly enforced and they are transported around the same time.
Passenger trains have been suspended since March 22; the Centre has allowed freight and special parcel trains for the supply of essentials. The Centre also allowed special trains for Indian Army personnel, citing national security consideration. Military specials trains have been deployed since April 17.