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Paper suggests transporting migrants to home states in special trains


Written by Avishek G Dastidar
| New Delhi |

Updated: April 26, 2020 3:59:25 pm


The estimate, as per the paper, is several thousands of non-stop trips stretching over days. (File)

Special buses to bring stranded migrants to railway stations after screening by state governments following which they will be taken to their native states in special trains in a kind of a hub-and-spoke arrangement — all free of cost.

This is part of the strategy chalked out by serving officers in Railways who have authored a paper titled “Facilitating Migrants Travel” in consultation with key officials in service. The paper was part of an unofficial exercise to ideate how to transport people in masses after the lockdown, and even during the lockdown, if the government decided.

The estimate, as per the paper, is several thousands of non-stop trips stretching over days. The development comes at a time when states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have recently announced plans to bring back migrant workers stuck in other states.

The paper says the states would bring the passengers in numbered buses and based on the data, Railways will prepare its logistics. The destination states will indicate where the train can and cannot stop — skipping containment zones and hotspots.

“Migrants, out of jobs, should not be burdened with ticket fare. Hence ideally, government must compensate Railways and run these trains for free to avoid undue burden on migrants or Railways,” the paper says.

The trains will not stop anywhere and alarm chains will be coated with dry paint to catch if someone pulls it midway. The paper says social distancing norms will be followed in stations and trains will run with much less capacity.

“Once the travel restrictions are lifted, it is expected that there will be excessive crowd on…railway stations and bus stops in addition to the regular commuters of major cities. Hence, it is prudent strategy to facilitate travel of the migrants before the restrictions are lifted,” said Harsh Shrivastava, a 2014-batch Indian Railway Traffic Service officer, who has authored the paper along with his batch mate Srishti Gupta in consultation with senior serving officers.

The paper, it is learnt, has been informally shared with the officers in the higher echelons of the Railway Board. Ideas like integrating the Aarogya Setu app with the Passenger Reservation System to profile passengers has also reached the Railway Board from various officers.

While the government is yet to decide on opening public transport, relevant stakeholders in the sector are already strategising on how transportation will change in a post-coronavirus world.

The Covid-19 task force of the Paris-based International Union of Railways, of which India is a member, met through video conferencing on April 14 and discussions were held on economic impact and future of the public transporter.

China Rail, for instance, shared the ways in which it was recovering now that the peak of the epidemic “appears to be over” and the government had reauthorised certain transportation that was previously prohibited. In India, the private sector is expecting a change in the future.

Srijan Sanchar, an ideas-incubation startup, is offering a prize money of up to Rs 32,000 for innovative solutions for the transport and logistics sector to move people and material safely in a world after the pandemic.

“The idea that wins will get the chance to seek angel investors. This is a way to bridge the gap between industry and academia to bring out a solution to boost entrepreneurship,” said Aditendra Jaiswal of Srijan Sanchar.

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