Migrant Crisis: Railways schedules 2600 Shramik trains for 36 lakh passengers
Since May 1, roughly 45 lakh passengers have travelled through ‘Shramik Special’ trains, the Indian Railways claimed. It said 80 per cent of passengers boarding the Shramik special trains were from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Indian railways have claimed that in the next ten days trains will ferry nearly 36 lakh passengers. The joint press conference comes at a time when the Opposition parties are attacking the Centre for failing to arrange enough trains for the migrant workers. The COVID-19 induced lockdown has forced crores of migrant workers out of their jobs. Images of workers returning to their native states on foot have surfaced from across the country.
The MHA spokeswoman, Punya Salila Srivastava, said that the state governments were instructed to ensure relief measures and shelter for the migrant workers during the lockdown.
The Railway Board chairman, VK Yadav, said that roughly 45 lakh passengers have travelled through ‘Shramik Special’ trains since May 1. Eighty per cent of passengers boarding the special trains – meant for the migrant workers – were from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.
“We want to assure the migrant workers that Indian railways will facilitate their travel. Shramik Special trains will continue to ply till the time it is required,” the ministry official said.
“Roughly 35 lakh passengers have travelled (since May 1) between the states and around 10 lakh passengers have travelled within the states,” Yadav told the media.
In the next ten days, the Railways has scheduled 2,600 Shramik special trains. “As per our estimate, in the next ten days, we will able to accommodate 36 lakh passengers. Besides this, we have informed the state governments that we will be able to ply trains within the states – as and when required by them,” the Railway Board chairman said.
The movement of migrant workers has also triggered fear of the spread of COVID-19 to third-tier cities and villages. The Indian railways is allowing only those passengers who show no symptoms of the virus.
While the Railways claims that the social distancing norms are being followed in its trains, permitting the booking of tickets under Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC) category has raised several questions.
Responding to the question of the RAC tickets, Yadav said, “En route tickets have not been permitted. There is a large possibility that the RAC tickets would be confirmed.”
Meanwhile, the Railways has refuted the claims of any increase in the cost of tickets. However, it said that before the lockdown certain concessions pertaining to “senior citizens were stopped in order to discourage unnecessary travels.”