Indian Railways to use special trains to ferry coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown stranded people

Indian Railways to use special trains to ferry coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown stranded people

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday allowed the use of special trains for movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other people stranded at different places across the country amid lockdown due to coronavirus COVID-19.

These trains will be operated by the Indian Railways under the Ministry of Railways and it will designate nodal officer(s) for coordinating with states and Union Territories (UTs) for their movement.

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, the MHA spokesperson said, "Movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students & other persons, stranded at different places, is also allowed by #SpecialTrains to be operated by Ministry of Railways. MoR to designate nodal officer(s) for coordinating with States/ UTs for their movement."

The Ministry of Railways will issue detailed guidelines for sale of tickets and for social distancing and other safety measures to be observed at train stations, train platforms and within the trains, according to an official statement.

Indian Railways on Friday ran a special train to ferry stranded migrants from Telangana to Jharkhand amid the lockdown. According to a statement issued by the Indian Railways, this special train will ferry nearly 1,200 stranded migrants from Lingampally in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand. This would be the first train to run since the lockdown began.

"The 24-coach train started at 4.50 am today (Friday)," said RPF DG Arun Kumar. It's the only train to be deployed so far, he added. Incidentally, Friday is also the International Labour Day.

The Indian Railways decided to run this special train carrying migrants from Lingampally in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand started at the state's request. “Today morning, a One-off special train was run from Lingampalli to Hatia on request of the State Government of Telangana and as per the directions of Ministry of Railways. All necessary precautions such prior screening of passengers, maintaining social distancing at the station and in the train were followed,’’ the Indian Railways said.

"This was only a One-off Special train* and any further trains shall be planned only as per the directions of Ministry of Railways and on request from both the Originating and Destination State Governments,’’ it added.

Today is the thirty-eighth day of India’s nationwide lockdown, which has been extended till May 3. The Centre on April 29 had hinted that the ongoing nationwide lockdown is likely to be extended beyond May 3 but many districts will "considerable relaxations" from restrictions.

The Union Home Secretary on April 27  wrote to all states and UTs to take steps to provide adequate support, including food and shelter, to migrant agricultural labourers, industrial workers and other unorganized sector workers during the lockdown. Similarly, states and UTs were advised to take steps to ensure that students, working women from other states, etc. are also allowed to continue in their existing accommodation.

The advisory suggested that in order to mitigate the situation for unorganized sector workers, particularly stranded migrant workers, states and UTs need to explore measures by involving various agencies, including NGOs, to provide food and shelter with basic amenities like clean drinking water, sanitation etc.

Further, states and UTs were also advised to make these vulnerable groups aware of the measures taken by the government including the provision of free food grains & other essential items through PDS, and streamline the distribution system. This would help prevent avoidable movement of such people, according to the advisory.

MHA had also advised that states and UTs need to ensure that hotels, rented accommodations, hostels etc., continue to remain functional and delivery of essential items is streamlined, so that students, working women hostel inmates etc. are allowed to continue in existing facilities while observing precautions.

While ensuring the supply of essential goods and services, states and UTs were being repeatedly directed to enforce the lockdown strictly and take action against violators under various provisions of law.