THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Local passengers boarding the special inter-state trains from Covid-19 red zones are becoming a huge concern for the authorities. According to officials, an average of five to 10 local passengers catch Netravati Express—the special inter state train transporting people from Maharashtra and other states that have several red zones on a daily basis.
The state and the centre have lifted the lockdown restrictions and partially reinstated train travel and other public transportation. Though Jan Shatabdi has started operations in the state to facilitate inter-district passenger movement, the Indian Railways continues to allow ticket booking on long-distance inter-state trains even for short journeys.
A senior official of the district administration said that there are several reports of people using the interstate trains for local travel. “We don’t have any plans for such passengers because as per the current rules, quarantine is not stipulated for inter-district travel. These people could turn into carriers if proper interventions are not made. We have informed the state government about this and the only way is to direct the railway authorities not to give tickets for local journeys,” said the official.
According to health authorities, boarding these trains increases the risk of infection for all passengers. In some of the cases, authorities are forced to send these passengers to institutional quarantine. Recently, a young passenger boarded the Netravati from Kasaragod station and landed in quarantine.
“This girl didn’t have any idea while boarding that she would go in quarantine. After reaching the state capital, she went to the hostel where she was staying, but was not allowed entry as the hostel authorities came to know that she travelled on Netravati. Later in the night, the girl came back to the railway station and requested authorities for institutional quarantine,” said an official on Covid-19 duty.
Currently, the state or the Centre haven’t put any restrictions in this regard. “All the efforts the authorities have taken so far, including the lockdown, are to protect people and ensure that they don’t get exposed to the virus. But now, the public has started taking things lightly and are taking huge risks for local travel, which could be avoided. This is creating unnecessary issues for everyone,” said the official. An official with the Indian Railways said that in the initial days, they didn’t allot tickets for local journeys and allowed booking only after direction from the authorities.
“All these trains are being operated under the strict supervision of health authorities. We don’t have much of a role as everything, including the stations with stops, are being decided by the state authorities. Passengers should avoid boarding interstate trains,” said a senior official of the Railways. Currently, Netravati and Rajdhani Express are the two interstate trains plying in the state.
Public transport system inadequate
According to passengers, the public transport system provided by the state government is inadequate. “Except for the educational institutions, all business establishments and public and private offices have started full-fledged operations with 100 per cent attendance. But the public transport facility provided by the state government is inadequate. With social distancing norms in place, many of the passengers are not gettingtransport facility they can really rely on,” said Liyons J, secretary of Friends on Rails.