Ready to run 171 more Shramik Specials, says Railway Board Chairman

Aim is to ensure each and every labourer reaches his or her home State: Vinod Kumar Yadav

The Railways is ready to run up to 171 trains and more in the next few days till June 15 to ensure “each and every labourer or ‘shramik’ reaches his or her respective home State. Close to 66 of these trains could be from Kerala, 26 from Tamil Nadu, and 5-10 trains from other States, mostly towards West Bengal and Odisha besides Uttar Pradesh and Bihar while one ‘Shramik Special is scheduled to be run from Goa on June 16, disclosed Chairman of Railway Board, Vinod Kumar Yadav, on Monday.

“We have been undertaking a big and difficult operation for the migrant labourers through 4,315 trains and transported 58.40 lakh (passengers) with the cooperation of originating and receiving States. Despite the fear of COVID-19, railway personnel are working round the clock to get the special trains ready within 24 hours’ notice of the respective States,” he explained, in an exclusive interview.

Mr. Yadav was at pains to state that the Railways migrant specials are not for “profit or income generating motive” because “₹ 200 crore or more expenditure is not beyond its capacity to absorb. “There has been a lot of debate about fares being charged, but it was only a ‘nominal fare’ for better train management. If it was free for all, it would have led to chaos. We were dependent on originating States to gather, screen and bring labour. We had to cancel up to 250 trains due to lack of permissions and demand. Several States including Telangana and Andhra Pradesh accepted to pay the fares which is 15% of what we usually charge for special trains returning empty. Tickets were issued to the States directly to bring some order and prevent crowding at stations,” he said.

The chairman asserted that complaints of lack of food and water was “blown out of proportion” while trains travelling to wrong direction was “fake news”. “Originating States were providing first meal and water, thereafter we were supplying free packed food in each coach with the help of RPF personnel. IRCTC contracting staff were apprehensive of distributing inside due to the virus fear. In one instance, before the RPF personnel entered, passengers tried to distribute the packets themselves leading to fights. The struggle happened on the platform itself before loading in one station, while a food stall was ransacked in another station forcing us to close. These videos were going viral,” he claimed.

Seventy-one trains had to be diverted between May 19 to 26 because of ‘heavy demand’ when an average of 250 trains were being run daily predominantly towards UP and Bihar causing “congestion from Mumbai to Gorakhpur”. “Delay was for few hours only as receiving stations too had protocols to follow. About four trains towards North East took 72 hours due to distance and landslips, otherwise we were running them at express speeds of more than 55 kmph, save for that period,” said Mr. Yadav.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 12:28:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/ready-to-run-171-more-shramik-specials-says-railway-board-chairman/article31781595.ece

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