The Indian Railways has ferried over 44 lakh migrant workers on board 3,276 “Shramik Special” trains since May 1, according to official data.
Of the total trains, 2,875 have terminated, while 401 are in transit. On May 25, 223 “Shramik Specials” ferried 2.8 lakh passengers, the railways said.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has distributed over 74 lakh free meals and more than 1 crore water bottles to travelling migrants so far.
“Over and above inter-state movement, the railways has been assisting state governments for intra-state movement of passengers by providing MEMU/DEMU and other train services. Over 11 lakh passengers have been moved within states till now,” the railways said.
The top five states and union territories from where maximum trains originated are Gujarat (897), Maharashtra (590), Punjab (358), Uttar Pradesh (232) and Delhi (200).
The top five states where maximum trains terminated are Uttar Pradesh (1,428), Bihar (1,178), Jharkhand (164), Odisha (128) and Madhya Pradesh (120), the railways said.
The “Shramik Special” trains are being operated primarily on the request of states, which want to send migrant workers stranded due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown to their native places.
While the Indian Railways is bearing 85 per cent of the total cost of running each train, the rest is being borne by the states in the form of fares.
The coronavirus-triggered lockdown has had a devastating impact on the economy as well as on the livelihoods of lakhs of migrant workers.
The plight of migrant workers who were walking from several urban centres to their villages hundreds of kilometres away had grabbed headlines for almost two months.
There have been incidents of many of them being killed in road accidents. A number of migrant labourers were even killed by a speeding train after they fell asleep on the tracks.
The Indian Railways also said that the rail route congestion, which was witnessed on May 23 and 24, is now over.
“The congestion had occurred due to convergence of more than two-third rail traffic on routes to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and late clearance of terminals due to health protocols etc that needed to be completed by state authorities,” it said.
“The matter has been resolved through active consultation with state governments and also finding other feasible routes for the journey,” it added.
On May 1, the Indian Railways started the migrant special trains to facilitate the movement of such workers back to their home states.
While on the first day, four such trains were operated, the number was increased to 279 on May 20.
In the last four days, the railways has operated 260 trains on an average daily carrying about three lakh passengers.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)