A day after Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan's letter to the Railway Minister requesting him to restart Shramik Special trains from Odisha to ferry migrant workers back to their workplaces in other parts of the country, the Railways announced three special trains for the eastern state. The three trains announced on Tuesday are from Puri to Ahmedabad (4 days a week), Puri-Gandhidhan Express (weekly) and the Puri-Okha Express (weekly) which will begin operations from September 12. These trains are in addition to the 80 trains announced earlier, which too would begin operations from September 12.
In his letter to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday, Pradhan said he has received a number of requests from migrant workers in Odisha that train services be started from there so that they can reach their workplaces. "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 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 Railways had on last Thursday said 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.
In the order announcing the trains, the Railways said they will have only reserved category seats. These special trains will run to notified timings. These trains will be fully reserved trains. These services shall be in addition to the Shramik specials and the special trains, which are already under operation. The composition of these trains would be same as of existing regular services, Stoppages shall be restricted in view of the suggestions of State Government, it said.
The Railways has so far run more than 4,600 Shramik Special trains since May 1, ferrying over 63 lakh people home during the coronavirus lockdown. In a recent media briefing, Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav said of the 230 trains that are currently being operated, the ones that are running on reverse routes of the Shramik Specials have 80-85 per cent occupancy, indicating that migrant workers were returning to their workplaces.