Hyderabad/New Delhi: Almost 40 days after the passenger train services were suspended in a bid to combat the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Indian Railways deployed the first special train on Friday to ferry stranded migrants from Telangana to Jharkhand.
The move on May Day done in near complete secrecy after the Bandra episode earlier this month and the Anand Vihar mismanagement around the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in the country, was hugely appreciated by people as the news broke and initial videos of the early morning train leaving the Lingampalli station appeared on social media.
Comprising mostly of migrant workers from the IIT-Hyderabad campus among others, the crowd that was sent home after more than a month was seen off by policemen, government officials, managers of companies as the train rolled off the platform at dawn.
Officials in Telangana claimed that the development to run the special train came in the wake of protests on Wednesday by hundreds of migrant workers at IIT in Hyderabad campus, who had allegedly not received payment but were being asked to resume work.
The services of special train comes two days after the central government allowed movement of those stranded, but in buses only. The workers reached the station in designated buses during the night and were then provided with food as social distancing was maintained through out the operation.
According to the railway officials, it is a non-stop train that has been operated as a “one-off” service on Friday morning. The train left the Lingampalli station at 5 a.m. It will reach Hatia in Jharkhand around 11 p.m.
The decision to run a special train came after a meeting between Home and Railways ministries late on Thursday.
Speaking to IANS, Railway Protection Force (RPF) Director General Arun Kumar said the train has 24 coaches and in every coach 54 people are there. He said that the migrants have been provided food, water by the railways. RPF personnel deployed on board will maintain the social distancing norms.
According to officials in Jharkhand, the state government has made adequate arrangements for the testing and quarantine of the migrants returning to the state from the special non-stop train.
The Railway Ministry in a statement said all necessary precautions such as prior screening of passengers, maintaining social distancing at station and in the train were followed.
“This was only a one-off special train and any further trains shall be planned only as per the directions of Ministry of Railways and on request from both the originating and destination state governments,” it added.
Following the government’s announcement, many states demanded train services to ferry the migrants stranded in their states as well.
On Thursday, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi in a tweet said, “I appeal GOI (government of India) to allow special trains to bring migrants from distant places.”
The railways have suspended the passenger, mail and express train services in a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19. Only freight and special parcel trains were running to ensure the supply of essential items across the country.
The Centre also allowed special trains for Indian Army personnel, citing national security consideration. Military specials trains have been deployed since April 17.
Last month, hundreds of migrants reached Bandra terminus railway station in Mumbai after rumour was spread that train services were resumed.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])