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Coronavirus lockdown | Railways to run ‘Shramik Special’ trains to move migrant workers, other stranded persons

Railway officials participate in a demonstration in Tirupati railway station on the social distancing normals to be followed post-lockdown.

Railway officials participate in a demonstration in Tirupati railway station on the social distancing normals to be followed post-lockdown.   | Photo Credit: K.V. Poornachandra Kumar

The passengers have to be screened by the sending States and only those found asymptomatic would be allowed to travel.

The Indian Railways on May 1, 2020, began operating ‘Shramik Special’ trains to transport migrant workers, tourists, pilgrims, students and others, who were stranded due to the sudden nationwide lockdown effective March 22, back to their home States.

The decision follows revised guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allowing the movement of such people by railways. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all passenger train services have remained suspended for nearly 40 days.

First such special train, however, was run even before the MHA orders were issued to ferry about 1,200 migrants from Lingampalli (in Telangana) to Hatia (in Jharkhand) at around 5 am on Friday. Terming it a “one-off special train”, a railways official said this was done on the request of the Telangana government.

The five more Shramik Special trains planned are -- Nasik (Maharashtra) to Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), Aluva (Kerala) to Bhubaneswar (Odisha), Nasik (Maharashtra) to Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan) to Patna (Bihar) and Kota (Rajasthan) to Hatia (Jharkhand). More trains could be run depending on requests from the State governments.

A railways official stressed that these are special trains planned for people identified and registered by the State governments, and Railways will issue any tickets to any individual or group. “We will allow only those passengers to board whom state govt officials will bring to Railway Stations,” the official said.

Each of the special trains, which are planned for movement on Friday itself, are expected to transport 1,000-1,200 people. 

“These special trains will be run from point to point on the request of both the concerned State Governments as per the standard protocols for sending and receiving such stranded persons. The Railways and State Governments shall appoint senior officials as Nodal Officers for coordination and smooth operation of these ‘Shramik Specials’,” an official statement said.

The passengers will have to be screened by the sending States and only those found asymptomatic would be allowed to travel. In addition, the sending State governments will have arrange to bringing these people in batches in sanitized buses following social distancing norms and other precautions. “It will be mandatory for every passenger to wear face cover. Meals and drinking water would be provided to the passengers by the sending states at the originating station.”

As per a Railway official, the fare for the Sleeper Mail Express train, plus ₹30 superfast charge and an additional charge of ₹20. This includes meals  and drinking water for long-distance trains. However, passengers are not required to buy the ticket. The fares will be paid by the state governments.

“On arrival at the destination, passengers will be received by the State Government, who will make all arrangements for their screening, quarantine if necessary and further travel from the Railway Station,” the Railways said.

On Wednesday, MHA had issued guidelines to allow inter-State movement of the stranded persons. While the April 19 guidelines by the ministry had asserted that there will be no Inter-State movement of migrant workers and labourers, several States, led by Uttar Pradesh, were already arranging the evacuation of students and workers by special buses.

The first set of such guidelines by MHA were issued on March 24 under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 invoked for the first time in the country in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 9:35:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/railways-to-run-shramik-special-trains-to-move-migrant-workers-other-stranded-persons/article31481996.ece

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