Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has written to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal requesting him to restart Shramik Special trains from Odisha to ferry migrant workers back to their workplace in states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The Railways started Shramik Specials on May 1 to transport stranded migrant workers to their native states after thousands tried to reach home on foot due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown. The last Shramik Special train was operated on July 9.
In his letter to the rail minister, Pradhan said that he has received a number of requests from migrant workers in Odisha who have urged that train services be started from Odisha so that they can reach their workplace.
"As we resume our path to normalcy with lifting of the nationwide lockdown, there is a need to resume rail services for migrant workers back to their workplace. These workers have highlighted their plight due to unavailability of livelihood options and difficulty in travelling back to their workplace to rejoin work.
"I am informed that even though some employers are willing to offer bus transport service from Odisha, due to the prevailing monsoon conditions, a long and arduous journey via road is neither feasible nor safe," Pradhan said in his letter. The Railways had on last Thursday said that it has met all the existing demand of states for Shramik Special trains to ferry stranded migrant workers home, with the last service being operated on July 9.
"Keeping in mind the need to reignite our economy and the plight of migrant workers in Odisha who are in urgent need of livelihood. I request your personal intervention for restarting of Shramik Special trains from Odisha to States like Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra at earliest," Pradhan said in his letter to Goyal.
Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav had said that more than 4,600 Shramik Special trains have been run since May 1, ferrying over 63 lakh people home during the coronavirus lockdown.
In a recent media briefing, Yadav also said that of the 230 trains that are currently being operated, the ones that are running on reverse route of Shramik Special trains was around 80-85 per cent, indicating that migrant workers were returning to their workplaces.
Sources in the Railways said the national transporter is not keen to operate more Shramik Special trains, but will run more regular trains on demand from Odisha. No other state has asked for such trains yet. The Railways recently announced 80 additional special trains which will be run from September 12. This will be in addition to the 230 trains which are currently in operation.
"In addition to the 40 pairs announced recently, more regular trains are expected to be run from Odisha to meet the demand," an official said.