Indian railways has prepared a schedule to transport another 36 lakh migrant labourers to 16 destination states from originating points in 19 states over the next 10 days, revealed the railway ministry. The ministry in a media address on Saturday afternoon added that it had already transported a total of 45 lakh migrants through inter and intrastate services provided since May 1.
The announcement of the Shramik special schedule comes at a time when railways has also announced a gradual resumption in its normal passenger services with 100 pair of trains from June 1 in addition to 15 pairs of Rajdhani special services in operation to address the rising demand for interstate travel with the easing of restrictions from lockdown clamped to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
“A total of 2,600 Shramik Special trains will run for the next 10 days, originating from 19 states for destinations in 16 states, carrying 36 lakh passengers,” the official said.
The official also shed light on the controversy around payment of fares for Shramik Specials and said that 85% of costs to run a Shramik special are borne by the Central government and the remaining 15% of operation costs are being borne by the state governments in the form of fares. He added that after some initial hiccups, coordination has been established with state governments on this issue. He added that the railways has provided 4.7 million free meals to passengers and other needy people.
The railway official said that 80% of the Shramik trains run so far serviced destinations in Bihar and UP, the two states with the highest population of the migrant workforce.
The official added that given the demand for more Shramik specials, 50% of modified Covid care train coaches will now be used to run trains for transporting the migrant workforce.
Railways had converted more than 5,000 wagons into Covid Care Centres to augment the country’s dedicated health infrastructure to fight coronavirus spread. The official said these coaches will now be used as Shramik Specials as they are lying unutilized as health care centres, he, however, added that these coaches could be reconverted into covid care centres if the need arises.
Listing other contributions made by the railways in the country’s fight against Coved 19 pandemic, he said a total of 17 Railway Hospitals had been converted into independent Covid Care Hospitals in addition to the infrastructure raised by states.
A total of 5,000 beds across the railway hospital networks are available for Covid patients along with the facility to quarantine 10,500 people.