Insight and inside of Shramik Special trains

On May 1st ,the railway ministry had started shramik special trains that has ferried 40 lakh migrants as of now (MAY 25,PTI) from the urban cities to their native places. Till now 3060 special trains have operated while 453 trains are on run. The railways has also announced to operate 2600 trains in the next 10 days. The corona-triggered lockdown had an adverse effect on economy as well as the livelihood of these migrant labourers. Numerous among them were forced to walk barefoot, by auto-rickshaws, by bicycles covering hundreds of kilometres to reach their places. These affairs have grabbed the headlines for almost 2 months and the labourers are still suffering.

There were incidents of many labourers being killed either by road accidents or starvation or by speedy trains when they felt asleep on the tracks(Aurangabad Mishap ,Maharashtra).The top five states/ UTs from where maximum trains originated are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh ,Delhi and top five states/UTs where top 5 trains terminated are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha.

The trains are on operation with the request from the states as well as migrant workers who want to go back to their native places. On May 1, Railways started these special trains to facilitate their movement and on the first day 4 trains operated and now 3060 plus. These trains are on tracks only after the allowance is given by both the states, receiving the labourers and sending the labourers. A proper documentation is being prepared by the state governments and is sent to the rail ministry. While initially there were no stoppages allowed ,the railways announced there will be three stoppages till the destination. The railways is bearing 85% of the cost of travel and 15% is to be given by the state governments.

A conflict too arose between Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray relating to the number of these special trains. Unfortunate deaths are also reported in the Shramik trains .A 46-year old migrant labourer died of hunger on Shramik Express as he had nothing to eat for 60 hours, as reported by his nephew.

“We weren’t carrying any food or water because we had heard the railways were providing food packs and water bottles on the trains. Even the other passengers in our compartment had no food or water left with them, so nobody could help us. And there was no water in the train at all.” quoted man's nephew.

Ravi Prakash Chaturvedi, additional divisional railway manager, Varanasi, repudiated the allegations that no food or water had been served on the train.

Another heartbreaking incident took place where a 10-month-old baby with high fever and breathing problems died on a Shramik Special train in western Uttar Pradesh as the authorities couldn't provide a doctor in four hours despite the entreaties from the family. Seemingly railway doctors had been shifted to Covid-19 hospitals.

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