Select passenger trains should be run to take migrant workers home, former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi

Former Railway minister and Trinamool MP Dinesh Trivedi calls for ‘extraordinary planning with a cool head’

Published - April 17, 2020 07:24 pm IST - New Delhi

Former Railway Minister and TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi. File

Former Railway Minister and TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi. File

Select passenger trains should be run to take migrant workers home, former Railway minister and Trinamool Congress’s Rajya Sabha MP Dinesh Trivedi said in an interview to The Hindu .

A country, he said, is judged by the way it treats its poor. “When the government arranged special planes to go to China, to Russia, to Europe and other parts of the world, how could they have not thought of people who needed [transport] the most, who have no means?” Mr. Trivedi asked.

“Suspending passenger trains is like stopping the flow of blood in your body. I would have run the Railways in a phased manner. Extraordinary times need extraordinary planning with a cool head. India knew what was coming considering China reported the first COVID-19 cases in December. If only there had been a brainstorming session with free flow of thoughts rather than just agreeing with political bosses. Gone are the days when bureaucracy had the courage to tell whatever they felt was right. There should have been a proper discussion between bureaucracy and political people without fear,” he said.

‘Develop app’

Along the lines of the Arogya App being promoted by Prime Minister Modi, the government could have developed a ‘Mazdoor Suvidha App’ for information on the running of trains, their schedule, and provided passengers with individual slots, Mr. Trivedi said.

“The trains could have carried passengers in a limited capacity to ensure adherence to social distancing norms. Special trains running from point to point could have helped avoid stampede-like situations seen in the first few days of the lockdown or the belligerent crowds of migrant workers recently seen in Bandra in Mumbai and Surat in Gujarat. Food is not the only thing a migrant worker would need. So many of them have been crying, asking the government for help. It’s their right to reach back to their families at such a precarious hour,” he added.

‘Not planned’

“The lockdown came without proper planning, giving the entire system a shock. The fact that the Indian Railways allowed hapless people to book from April 15 onwards shows their utter disregard for passengers, and ill-planning,” Mr. Trivedi alleged.

“The Indian Railways had to cancel 94 lakh tickets. IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) charges a nominal convenience fee of ₹15 per ticket for booking non-AC travel and ₹30 for air-conditioned and first class tickets. The full refund will not include this amount. All passengers should get a full refund and fast,” he demanded.

Following the extension of the lockdown till May 3, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 14, passenger trains continue to be suspended. “It is not too late — the government should start special trains at the earliest,” Mr. Trivedi said.

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