To check the spread of the infection, the stalls on platforms had been shut throughout the nationwide lockdown, which was imposed on 25 March 2020.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the Railways Food Vending Association is not ready to begin services on Indian Railways’ station platforms. The Association has recently urged the officials not to pressure it into opening stalls at Indian Railways’ platforms. To check the spread of the infection, the stalls on platforms had been shut throughout the nationwide lockdown, which was imposed on 25 March 2020. However, the Railway Board, through a letter dated 21 May 2020, directed all the zones of Indian Railways network to open permanent and vending stalls located inside station premises with immediate effect, according to a PTI report.
In a letter to Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav on 28 May 2020, Ravinder Gupta, Akhil Bharatiya Railway Khan-Pan Licensees Welfare Association President said that nobody likes to close their business for a long time and sit without work but wants the units to be operated under viable conditions. The letter further stated that due to the ongoing lockdown/ containment zones as well as Red Zones in most of the states, there are various hurdles and unprecedented situations in the reopening of the stalls at station platforms. Also, the letter stated that due to the lockdown, most vendors had migrated to their hometowns. The letter further raised the issue of vendors’ safety, alleging that sufficient arrangements have not been made for the protection of men and material on railway station platforms.
In the letter, Gupta stated that Indian Railways is continuing to run Shramik Special trains, transporting migrant labourers who are looting, vandalizing and also causing heavy damages to some of the platform stalls. In case of loss or injury, are those local authorities going to take responsibility, he asked in the letter. Also, the association requested the national transporter to allow a reasonable time for the reopening of the static station platform stalls. As very few trains are operational at the moment, there is no point in opening food stalls, the letter said.
According to the letter, from June 1 onwards, only 100 pairs of passenger train services are scheduled to be operated. Thus, in the absence of normalized situation and proper restoration of all trains, there are very less chances of availing vending services by bonafide railway passengers. At this time of the COVID-19 crisis, food vending services on station platforms are an important source of meals for passengers, especially for those passengers who are travelling on Shramik Special trains, undertaking long rail journeys and running out of water and food. These Shramik Special trains have nearly three stoppages/halts. There are nearly one lakh static units/stalls at 9,000 stations on the Indian Railways network.