From ferrying stuck migrants soon after a coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed in 2020 to delivering crucial liquid medical oxygen (LMO) during the second wave in 2021, the Indian Railways has been at the forefront of the country’s fight against the pandemic. According to data available with the ministry, Oxygen Expresses have transported 1,603 tankers of LMO so far and brought relief to 15 states.
The railways started the operation of ferrying LMO at a time when several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, were facing acute oxygen shortage amid a massive rise in Covid-19 cases during the second wave of the pandemic. The first Oxygen Express had left Maharashtra on April 24 with 126 MT of LMO.
Among other states that have received help through these trains are Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Punjab, Kerala, Jharkhand and Assam.
Oxygen Expresses offloaded 5,790 MT of LMO in Delhi, 3,797 MT in Uttar Pradesh, 3,773 MT in Tamil Nadu, 3,341 MT in Karnataka, 3,049 MT in Andhra Pradesh, 2,765 MT in Telangana, 2,212 MT in Haryana and 656 MT in Madhya Pradesh. Another 614 MT of liquid oxygen was offloaded in Maharashtra, 513 MT in Kerala, 320 MT in Uttarakhand, 225 MT in Punjab, 400 MT in Assam, 98 MT in Rajasthan and 38 MT in Jharkhand.
As many as 39 cities and towns of these states have received the help. These include, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Bareilly, Gorakhpur and Agra in Uttar Pradesh and Nagpur, Nashik, Pune, Mumbai and Solapur in Maharashtra.
Nellore, Guntur, Tadipatri and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Tiruvallur, Chennai, Tuticorin, Coimbatore and Madurai in Tamil Nadu have also received the help.
Running through high-priority green corridors round the clock, the trains use tankers provided by the states to the Indian Railways to ferry LMO.
The average speed of these trains is usually more than 55km per hour with reduced technical stoppages for crew changes over different sections.
Oxygen is being picked up from places like Hapa, Baroda, Mundra in western India and Rourkela, Durgapur, Tatanagar, Angul in the east and delivered to states in need. The Railways is also ensuring that other freight operation does not get hampered due to this.
Meanwhile, the Shramik Special trains ferried more than 63 lakh migrant labourers when the first lockdown was imposed across the country to contain the spread of thevirus.
The ministry had arranged the service on an emergency basis in coordination with individual state governments. The first Shramik Special train was flagged off on May 1, 2020.
Till August 30, the Railways ferried 63.15 lakh workers home across 23 states through 4,621 trips in Shramik Special trains. Most of the trains were meant for Uttar Pradesh (1,726) and Bihar (1,627).