To ascertain the demand, the Railway Board has authorized general managers of Indian Railways' zones to speak to state chief secretaries.
Indian Railways train services: With the Modi government looking at various options for a post-lockdown exit strategy, Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways is all set to speak to states to understand if there is any requirement for limited, essential movement of people like those stranded, labourers, etc. The move is to allow Indian Railways and the government to gauge if states would be on board such a plan, with PM Modi telling the political parties that nobody had suggested that the Centre lift the national lockdown in one go. According to sources quoted in an IE report, to ascertain the demand, the Railway Board has authorized general managers of Indian Railways’ zones to speak to state chief secretaries.
In many deliberations that were held earlier during the lockdown, states had sought transportation for those stranded in far-flung areas. Also, as migrants have gone back to their villages and cannot come back due to the lockdown, factories in various parts of the country processing novel Coronavirus-related orders are facing a shortage of labour. Meanwhile, a group of MPs has suggested to the government that mass transport facilities such as Indian Railways should stay closed for now in order to prevent labourers from returning back home.
According to the MPs, led by BJP president JP Nadda, once gone, the labourers might not return to cities till at least Diwali, which may significantly impact the economic revival. A source was quoted saying that due to this, the functioning of manufacturing units as well as economic operations would come to a standstill. Moreover, in villages too, there are not any jobs, which could result in a dangerous situation, he added.
A senior Railway Ministry official said that the full resumption of passenger train services was not discussed in internal deliberations since that is not on the table at the moment. The ministry will be speaking to states to gather further inputs, he said. Also, there would be little point resuming train services in states which do not want trains to operate or inter-state travel to happen, the official added.
According to the sources quoted in the report, before the nationwide lockdown was announced, states such as Jharkhand and West Bengal had asked Indian Railways not to permit any inter-state trains. They also noted that many states, which would be expected to receive a large number of migrant workers if passenger train services to run, did not show any interest for the same at the time when labourers were forced to walk hundreds of miles back home from cities.