Indian Railways started six ‘Shramik Special’ trains to transport stranded people across the country

NEW DELHI: A day after the Centre said buses will be used to take migrant workers to their home states, the Indian Railways also started six ‘Shramik Special’ trains to transport workers, students and tourists following a go-ahead from the home ministry. With several states approaching the railways, the special trains will be a regular feature in the coming weeks.
The trains will be able to facilitate movement of a larger number of people in less time than would have been the case if only buses were allowed. Hours after the first train left Lingampalli in Telangana, the home ministry issued revised guidelines permitting trains for inter-state transport of stranded people amid the lockdown.
Railway ministry officials said a few more trains will be run from point-to-point in the next couple of days. “As MHA guidelines prescribe, we will run special trains only when we are approached by state governments. Several states are discussing with our zonal offices. We are ready to run more trains complying with the norms,” a railway ministry official said.
Almost all trains that started on Friday had 24 coaches each and transported around 1,000-1,200 passengers. About 54 passengers are allowed in a sleeper coach in place of the normal provision to accommodate 72 passengers. “This is being done to maintain social distancing during the journey,” the official said.
In some cases, coaches were earmarked by destinations on the route. For example, the train from Kota to Ranchi had coaches marked as Palamu, Ramgarh and Gumla. This was done to ensure only those passengers destined for a particular station were in the specified coach and deboarded according to schedule.
As per MHA guidelines, the railways has designated nodal officers for coordinating with states. “These trains are being run only for nominated people identified and registered by the state governments. None should come to stations for getting a ticket. Bulk tickets are provided to the state and hence there is no sale of tickets for individuals. We will allow only those passengers who are transported by the state government,” the official said.
So far as fare is concerned, the respective state governments will coordinate and pay the ticket price of a sleeper class and another Rs 50 per passenger. The fare includes complimentary meals and drinking water during the journey.
Passengers nominated by state governments will be screened at departure points and allowed to proceed if found asymptomatic. On arrival, they will be assessed by local authorities and kept in home quarantine, unless they require institutional surveillance.
While earlier, only buses were allowed to transport such people, transporting lakhs of stranded migrants by road and that too for long distance was almost impossible.