In what can be seen as a stupendous service provided amidst the coronavirus outbreak, the India Railways operated around 201 Shramik Special trains till late Thursday and helped nearly 2 lakh stranded migrant workers, tourists and students to return to their home state. The Ministry of Railways confirmed that 52 special trains made the journey on Thursday alone.
Data released by Ministry of Railways
According to an internal railway ministry data, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were receiving a maximum number of migrants back. The data revealed that until Thursday, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had taken back around 38,000 migrants each. Both the states have received 37-38 trains till Thursday, ferrying nearly 1000 passengers each. It further confirmed that while forty-four more trains are scheduled to reach the states, there are 25 more in the pipeline.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are followed by Odisha and Jharkhand who have received 13 and 10 trains, respectively.
The special trains have so far departed from states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan and Telangana carrying migrants home.
The Shramik Special trains are running from point X to point Y without any stoppages. Usually, they have 24 coaches, each carrying a little over 50 against the total capacity of 72. These trains are run for distances of over 500 km with at least 90 per cent occupancy.
The central government on May 1, had started ‘shramik’ special trains which are facilitating the return of migrant labourers back to their home states from the various states where they might be stranded due to the Coronavirus lockdown. Despite Railways and the Centre clarifying that the stranded migrant commuters will not have to pay for the travel, the Congress Party has been creating unnecessary controversy over the issue.
Congress creating needless controversy
On May 4 Congress leaders took to Twitter to claim that since the government is charging money for the railway fare of the stranded migrants going back home on Shramik Special trains, the party will chip in and bear the expenses for the same. This offer to pay for the migrants’ fare came two days after the Railway Ministry had clarified that the state and central governments are facilitating the movement of migrants through Shramik Special trains.
On May 2, 2020, the Ministry of Railways had clarified that no tickets will be sold at the railway station and that the movement of migrants is being arranged by the state governments.
Indian Railways wrote to Sonia Gandhi
Amidst this raging controversy over who will ultimately foot the bill to ferry stranded migrant labourers back home, All India Railway Federation had on May 7 written a letter to the Congress interim president, Sonia Gandhi requesting her not to play politics over the migrants’ rail fare.
It had clarified that railways have subsidised 85 per cent of ticket fare for special trains being run to transport migrant workers and the state government has to pay the remaining 15 per cent. This he said was necessary. Since the respective state governments will book the trains by making the payment, it would prevent commuters from huddling up at the stations which might have risked the lives of the railways’ staff as well.
Why Indian Railway ask passengers to pay?
The ‘Shramik’ trains are specials trains that have been started by the Railways to ferry stranded migrant labourers from various states across India to their home states. These trains were started after requests by the states and protests by migrant labourers amidst the Coronavirus lockdown and as such, are not open for the public at large. It is the state that has to ensure that migrant labourers in their state are registered and screened and then, they can be ferried through the Shramik train to their home state.