Indian Railways has ruled out running Shramik Special trains to carry migrant workers leaving cities in fear of another lockdown, and said no state has yet asked it to stop train services.
Migrant workers are swarming railway stations to travel to their hometowns as measures to contain the fresh wave of Covid-19 cases have hit employment in several states.
Railway Board chairman Suneet Sharma said on Friday that trains will be run in sectors where there is demand. Sharma said all protocols are being followed on the IRCTC’s e-ticketing website, advising passengers if they need to undergo an RT-PCR test or carry Covid-negative certificates while travelling to certain areas.
A total of 63.19 lakh passengers travelled from cities to their home states in 4,621 Shramik Special trains between May and August 2020. Currently, Indian Railways is running 1,490 mail and express trains and 5,397 suburban train services on an average per day. Besides, there are 28 clone trains of highly-patronised trains and 947 passenger trains.
To clear the extra rush, it is also operating 140 additional trains which will make 483 trips in April and May. These trains are for destinations with high demand, such as Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Manduadih, Prayagraj, Patna, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga, Barauni, Bokaro, Ranchi, Guwahati and Kolkata.
Railways has made arrangements to convert 5,000 railway coaches into Covid-19 care centres. The special coaches may be used for very mild/ mild cases that can be clinically assigned to the centres. These coaches may be used in areas where the state has exhausted facilities and needs to augment capacity for isolation of suspect and confirmed Covid-19 cases.
At present, Railways has 4,000 isolation coaches for Covid-19 at different locations. There is a demand from Nandurbar in Maharashtra for over 100 coaches and 20 isolation coaches have been provided.
Railways has also stepped up the vigil at stations with thermal screening of passengers and penalty for not following protocols. Automatic thermal scanners have been deployed at major stations like New Delhi, Delhi and Nizamuddin. The price of platform tickets has been increased at several stations to discourage crowding, and daily reports on the checks carried out are being taken from all divisions. All entry and exit points of stations are manned by staff and entry is being permitted only with confirmed tickets.