NEW DELHI: The Railways will now run 100 'Shramik Special' trains daily to facilitate faster movement of workers, the Centre said on Monday, adding that 468 such trains have been operated since May 1 ferrying home over five lakh migrants stranded in various parts of the country amid the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
While 363 trains have already reached their destination, 105 trains are in transit.
These 363 trains were terminated in various states like Andhra Pradesh (1 train), Bihar (100 trains), Himachal Pradesh (1 train), Jharkhand (22 trains), Madhya Pradesh (30 trains), Maharashtra (3 trains), Odisha (25 trains), Rajasthan (4 trains), Telangana (2 trains), Uttar Pradesh (172 trains), West Bengal (2 trains) and Tamil Nadu (1 train).
These trains have ferried migrants to cities like Tiruchchirappalli, Titlagarh, Barauni, Khandwa, Jagannathpur, Khurda Road, Prayagraj, Chhapra, Balia, Gaya, Purnia, Varanasi, Darbhanga, Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Jaunpur, Hatia, Basti, Katihar, Danapur,Muzzaffarpur, Saharsa among others.
From Monday, these Shramik Special trains started carrying around 1,700 passengers each instead of the earlier 1,200 to ferry as many workers home as possible.
"The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Railways organised a video conference on movement of migrant labour by Shramik Special trains today morning.
"Nodal officers of the States and UTs participated......Several issues were discussed and redressed during the VC and it was emphasised that migrant labour should be reassured that sufficient number of trains would be run for travel of all those wishing to go home," a statement from MHA said.
More than a hundred trains are expected to run daily for next few weeks to facilitate faster movement of stranded workers to their native places, it added.
Every Shramik Special train has 24 coaches, each with a capacity of 72 seats.
Till now, only 54 people were allowed in a coach and the middle berth was not allotted to any passenger to maintain social distancing norms.
While the railways has not yet announced the cost incurred on the special services, officials indicate that the national transporter has spent around Rs 80 lakh per service.
The government had earlier stated that the cost of the services has been shared on a 85:15 ratio with states.
Since the Shramik Special train service started, Gujarat has remained one of the top originating stations followed by Kerala.
Bihar and Uttar Pradesh top the list of receiving states. Earlier, the railways drew flak from opposition parties for charging for these services.
In its guidelines, the railways has said the trains will ply only if they have 90 per cent occupancy and the "states should collect the ticket fare".