Railways geared up to run 300 Shramik Special trains a day: Piyush Goyal
The Indian Railways is geared up to run 300 trains a day to ferry stranded migrant labourers to their hometowns, railways minister Piyush Goyal said on Sunday, while also appealing to states to ramp up efforts to ensure that the workers reach their destinations across the country in the next three-four days.
According to his ministry, the railways ran till Saturday a total of 364 Shramik Special trains. Out f the 90 planned on Saturday, 64 were already in transit till the filing of this report. So far, railways ferried 450,000 passengers.
“As per the directions of Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi ji, Railways is fully geared up to run 300 Shramik Special trains every day at short notice since the last six days,” Goyal tweeted.
“I appeal to all the States to give permission to evacuate and bring back their stranded migrants so that we can get all of them back to their homes in the next 3-4 days itself,” he said in another tweet.
Shramik Special trains, which began on May 1, are bound for a single destination without any stoppages. Usually, they have 24 coaches with each carrying a little over 50 passengers in place of the total capacity of 72, taking the total number of passengers per train to up to 1,200. This means 300 trains a day for the next four days would be able to carry over a million passengers.
The Shramik Special trains are being run only after a concurrence is given by states that are sending the passengers as well as those receiving them, the ministry said. In an earlier guideline, the Centre asked both sides to coordinate for the transit of migrant workers who are stuck across India due to the ongoing lockdown prompted by the coronavirus disease.
According to the Economic Survey 2016-17 that used new metrics to give updated data on migration, there was an annual interstate migration flow of close to 9 million from 2011 to 2016 in a “circular” (to and from) fashion based on data from railways.
According to states’ estimates on April 30, around 10 million workers were stranded across the country; many of them struggling after losing their jobs in the wake of the lockdown. Experts, too, pointed out that the number of stranded migrants could be more than the central government’s estimates even though several of them have already reached their homes by special buses and these trains.
In the first week of April, a status report submitted by the Centre to the Supreme Court said a little over a million migrant workers and others were housed at 26,476 relief and active shelter camps across the country. Of them, 630,000 were in government camps and the rest in those run by non-government organisations.
“The estimates by the railway minister are based on the figure of roughly 600,000 migrants in government relief camps...However, it is estimated that there are roughly 60-65 million interstate migrant workers. Even if we assume that only 50% of them want to travel back, then the number of trains being suggested are not enough,” said Rajendran Narayanan, assistant professor, Azim Premji University.
“Another issue that the migrants are facing is also for registering themselves for the trains. For a migrant to travel, he has to register in both states’ (originating and terminating) websites. There is a huge mess with the compatibility on their portals and this is why there should have been one central platform to do that. The other issue is that most of them do not have smartphones, and most who have not been paid have not had the currency to be able to recharge their phones. The government should ensure a paper-based registration in every ward and town,” he added.
According to the railways ministry, a total of 287 trains have reached their destinations across 11 states — Andhra Pradesh (1 train), Bihar (87 trains), Himachal Pradesh (1 train), Jharkhand (16 trains), Madhya Pradesh (24 trains), Maharashtra (3 trains), Odisha (20 trains), Rajasthan (4 trains), Telangana (2 trains), Uttar Pradesh (127 trains), West Bengal (2 trains). These trains have departed from states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan and Telangana.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have taken in the maximum number of migrants back with more than 80,000 people each, according the internal railway ministry data. They were followed by Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.