Around 4.32 lakh railwaymen have been vaccinated so far and the railways is insisting that state governments inoculate the remaining, Railway Board Chairman Suneet Sharma said on Monday.
Around 4.32 lakh railwaymen have been vaccinated so far and the railways is insisting that state governments inoculate the remaining, Railway Board Chairman Suneet Sharma said on Monday. His remarks came days after the government wrote to states instructing them to use their quota of free vaccines only for those designated as frontline workers by the government or those above the age of 45 years.
The government’s list of frontline workers does not include railway staffers, something that the unions have been complaining about for a long time. As reported by PTI on Saturday, the letter from the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Affairs instructed states to adhere to the government’s list of frontline workers or procure their own vaccines for shots for any additional categories announced by them.
“The railways have so far vaccinated 4.32 lakh employees. We have been in touch with state governments for vaccination for the balance staff. The first stage was 45 years and above and the frontline workers like medical staff and RPF. They have been completed,” Sharma said while addressing a press briefing. He said that now the thrust is on those aged between 18 to 45 years.
“We are in touch with the states, number one, to finish the 45 years and above group of people, now, not many are left. Secondly, to quickly cover our 18-45 age group in different states. “We are in touch with the states, as the railways carries essential commodities, we run the Oxygen Expresses and meet the coaching requirements of passengers. We have been insisting on state governments to quickly take action in inoculating our people,” Sharma said.
He also said that while the railways is yet to receive a formal demand for vaccination from any of its sectors, it is in discussion with railwaymen on the issue and have assured them that they will get them vaccinated the “fastest”. “More than 100 vaccination centres are there in the railways. We have increased our number of beds. Till last year, we had 2,539 COVID beds, now 6,972 beds. We had 253 isolation beds, now we have 573. We have four oxygen plants and 50 others have been sanctioned by divisions and zones.
“Earlier, we had 63 ventilators which have been increased to 296. We have added oxygen concentrators and medicines,” he said. The Railway Ministry spokesperson also said that the railways cannot decide who should be designated as frontline workers as it is the decision of a specially formed body within the government.
Currently, the definition of frontline workers include personnel from state and central police organisation, armed forces, home guards, prison staff, disaster management volunteers, civil defence organisation, municipal workers and revenue officials engaged in surveillance and containment activities.
The All India Station Masters’ Association has given an ultimatum of June 30 to the government to vaccinate them and other “frontline” railway employees involved in train operations in a letter to the Union Health secretary. It has said that if the government fails to do so, the non-vaccinated staff will have no option other than abstaining from duty. As of now, almost 2,000 rail employees have lost their lives to coronavirus and around 1,000 are infected daily.