In a bid to ferry more migrants, the Railways on Monday (May 11) decided to carry around 1,700 passengers on board its Shramik Special trains instead of the current 1,200.
According to an order issued, the railway zones have also been asked to provide three stops in the destination state other than the terminating station, at the request of the state governments. It also said that the train capacity should be equal to the number of sleeper berths on the train.
The order comes days after Railway Minister Piyush Goyal appealed to all states, especially those that have allowed very few trains, to give approvals liberally. The issue of approvals for these migrant trains was also discussed in the home secretarys video conference with chief secretaries on Sunday.
Earlier, Union Home Minister Amit Shah too had appealed to West Bengal to give swift approvals for these trains. The Shramik Special trains has 24 coaches with a capacity to carry 72 passengers in each coach. Currently, these trains are running with 54 passengers in each coach due to social distancing norms.
So far, the Indian Railways has ferried over five lakh passengers since May 1 on a total of 468 Shramik Special trains. Bihar has accepted the most workers back with 100 trains, West Bengal has given nod to two, while eight more trains are in the pipeline. “The Railways has a capacity to run 300 trains per day and we want to maximise it. We want to carry as many migrants home as possible over the next few days and have appealed to states to send approvals,” said a senior official explaining the move.
Earlier, the Centre has said it has noted with great concern that migrant workers continue to walk on roads and railway tracks to return to their native places and asked states to ensure that they travel home on the special trains being run for them from various parts of the country.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all states and union territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also sought their cooperation in running more Shramik Special trains for the migrant workers.
Referring to a meeting held by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Sunday, Bhalla said, in the meeting, the situation of migrant workers walking on roads and railway tracks was noted with great concern.
“Since their movement by buses and Shramik special trains has already been allowed to enable their travel to native places, all State/UT governments should ensure that migrant workers do not resort to walking on road and on railway tracks,” he said.
In case they are found in such condition, the home secretary said, they should be appropriately counselled, taken to nearby shelters and provided with food, water etc. till such time they are facilitated to board the Shramik Special trains or buses to their native places.
Further, Bhalla said, as requested by the cabinet secretary, all state/UT governments should cooperate with the railways in running more Shramik Special trains so that travel of stranded migrant workers is facilitated at a faster rate. “I urge upon you all to allow receiving of all Shramik special trains without any hindrance and facilitate faster movement of stranded migrant workers to their native places,” he said.
Sixteen migrant workers, who were walking back home to Madhya Pradesh were mowed down by a goods train in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad last week after they fell asleep on railway tracks.