The Indian Railways will transport 3.6 million migrant workers to their home states and another one million within states in 2,600 special trains till June 2, said a senior officer of the service on Saturday.
Starting May 1, Shramik Special trains have transported 4.5 million migrant workers in 2,600 trains over the last 23 days. These include 3.5 million inter-state passengers. According to the home ministry’s estimates, around 4 million migrants travelled so far using inter-state bus services. “The Railways have decided to operationalise 2,600 more Shramik Special Trains over the next 10 days across the country as per the needs of states,” said Vinod Kumar Yadav, chairman of the Railway Board, in a media briefing on Saturday.
An exact number of migrants stranded in the nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus is not available, but Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has indicated that the number could be around 80 million. The Railways started running Shramik Special trains from May 1 to move migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and others stranded. This was after the Union government allowed inter-state movement of buses from April 29. The special trains run point to point on the request of concerned state governments as per guidelines for travel in the lockdown.
From June 1, the Railways will operate around 200 special trains for which advance bookings of around 1.4 million are already done. When asked about the concerns relating to availability of tickets in these special trains, Yadav said so far only around 30 per cent of the bookings are full and seats are still available for advance bookings in 190 out of 200 trains. “In routes, where higher demand is there, we will be coming up with more special trains,” he added. For these trains, the Railways is availing an advance booking of 30 days. The government also started running 15 pairs of fully-air conditioned starting from May 12. Bookings for these trains are now open for sale through station ticket counters, too.
Around 80 per cent of the Shramik Special trains, totalling 2050, had Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as their destinations. The clarification followed an incident when a train headed to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh landed up in Odisha's Rourkela. When asked about this, Yadav said it was a planned diversion due to congestion on its regular route.
In the next 10 days, trains originating from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand are scheduled.
“On May 1, we operated four Shramik trains with 4,000 travellers, and we operated 279 with around 400,000 passengers on May 20. In the last four days only, 260 trains were operated and around 350,000 people on an average travelled,” Yadav said citing the intensity at which the national transporter is increasing the number of trains.
The Railways ensured essential commodities were available during the lockdown though freight trains were affected. “We have started parcel service, too, for essential commodities. In addition, we were able to double the handling of foodgrains, compared to the same time last year,” he said.