Not possible to convert railway coaches into ICUs for Covid-19 patients: Railways inform Bombay HC
The affidavit cited that the Central Railway authorities have converted 482 non-air-conditioned (AC) coaches on 24 rakes into makeshift isolation centres across Maharashtra.Updated: Jul 02, 2020 11:49 IST
The Union Ministry of Railways has expressed its inability to the Bombay high court (HC) to convert train compartments into intensive care units (ICUs) for treating coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients without making extensive modifications.
The rail authorities submitted an affidavit before the court on Monday (June 29) that stated the changes would require elaborate design support that could only be carried out during the manufacturing of coaches.
The affidavit cited that the Central Railway authorities have converted 482 non-air-conditioned (AC) coaches on 24 rakes into makeshift isolation centres across Maharashtra.
The middle seat in a normal non-AC coach has been removed and a toilet at the end of a bogey has been turned into a bathroom. While the first cabin near the entrance can be used as a store, or for paramedical staff, the affidavit stated.
Similarly, Western Railway authorities have converted 410 non-AC coaches on 18 rakes into quarantine facilities. The rakes are stationed at key junctions between Mumbai and Bhavnagar in Gujarat.
The affidavit was submitted in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by social activist Naresh Kapur, who is also doubling up as a Covid-19 warrior. He had sought the court’s direction to convert idle coaches into isolation facilities as a temporary measure until the rail authorities resume their full-fledged operations.
Earlier on June 23, the two-member HC bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice MS Karnik, had directed the railway authorities to submit an affidavit, questioning the Central and Western Railways’ negligence in not converting train compartments into ICUs for Covid-19 patients.
In his PIL, filed through advocate Prerak Choudhary, Kapur had complained about an acute shortage of beds for treatment of Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients across the densely-populated Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and suggested that rail coaches be converted into makeshift treatment facilities.
The petitioner had pointed out that the mismanagement of the viral outbreak treatment has led to a breakdown of the healthcare system in MMR amid an alarming spike in Covid-19 positive cases.
The HC, however, rejected Kapur’s plea for a direction to Maharashtra government and civic authorities to reopen all hospitals, nursing homes, and dispensaries that have been closed either due to departmental or judicial orders to treat Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.
“Granting the prayer would amount to tinkering with administrative or judicial orders and such course is plainly impermissible,” the bench had said while rejecting the plea.