In a relief to migrant labourers stuck in various places across the country, the Indian Railways on Friday started operating “Shramik Special” trains to move them to their home states.
On Friday, it operated five trains from Maharashtra, Telangana, Kerala, and Rajasthan for transporting more than 7,000 people, including stranded labourers, pilgrims, tourists, and students.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday came up with a notification on this. Hours before the notification, the first train carrying 1,200 migrants to Hatia in Jharkhand started from Lingampalli in Telangana at 5 am.
According to an official of the South Central Railways, the Telangana government had paid the Indian Railways for running the train.
Multiple trains carrying migrant labourers are expected to start on Saturday from several states. For this the final nod will come from the MHA, which will take up the matter case by case.
The Kerala government said at least five trains from there were likely to operate to Assam and West Bengal on Saturday.
Two days after the MHA formally allowed movements of stranded persons by bus, it issued the notification on Friday for “movement of migrant workers, tourists, pilgrims, students and other persons, stranded at different places” by special trains. The railways said these were special trains for people identified and registered by state governments.
“We will not issue any ticket to an individual or entertain any request from any group or individual. We will allow only those passengers whom state government officials will bring to railway stations,” a railway official said.
Passengers will have to pay fares of sleeper mail express trains and a Rs 30 super-fast charge and an additional charge of Rs 20.
“Travellers will have to pay the basic fare for their journey. On a single train, not more than 1,200 people are allowed,” said a Kerala state government official.
Apart from Lingampalli to Hatia, trains from Aluva in Kerala to Bhubaneswar; Nasik to Bhopal; Jaipur to Patna; and Kota to Hatia operated on Friday. “The decision on further trains will be taken in accordance with the direction of the MHA and talks with the originating and destination states,” P S Mishra, member (traffic) of the Railway Board, told Business Standard.
The Indian Railways said in a statement that special trains would run from point to point on the request of both the originating and destination states.
The railways and the states will appoint senior officials as nodal persons for their coordination and smooth operation.
The trains were started after taking all the necessary precautions such prior screening of passengers, maintaining social distancing at station and in the train too.
“The passengers have to be screened by the sending states and only those found asymptomatic would be allowed to travel. Sending state governments will have to bring these persons in batches that can be accommodated in the train to the designated railway station in sanitized buses following social distancing norms and other precautions,” said a railway statement.
The destination state would have to make all arrangements for their screening, quarantine, if necessary, and further travel from the railway station. On trains, masks would be mandatory for each passenger while meals and drinking water would be provided to the passengers by the sending states at the originating station.
The statement added that on longer routes, the Railways would provide a meal en-route during the journey. According to the media reports, the Indian Railways has lined up a proposal for movement of stranded migrant laborers across the country by operating 400 trains daily initially and then scaling it up to 1,000. The decision to run migrant trains were taken more than a month after passenger train operations were stopped on March 25.