New Delhi: With the demand for Shramik special trains declining, their operation could stop after 16 June if the Railways go by the requests coming from states, ThePrint has learnt.
The Railways Ministry has written to states on 29 May and 3 June, asking them to indicate the number of Shramik trains they would need for the movement of the remaining migrant workers who are left stranded amid the Covid lockdown.
By 6 June, several states responded to the ministry, with Kerala demanding the highest number of trains — 66 — to transport migrant workers. Kerala was followed by Tamil Nadu (26), Karnataka (18), West Bengal (17) and Goa (10), Railway sources told ThePrint.
According to the requests made by states so far, no trains may be required after 16 June, said a Railway official.
However, the Railways has told states if they demand operation of Shramik trains even after 16 June, trains would be run within 24 hours of receiving a demand.
Railway officials said, as on 6 June, the ministry has received requests for a total of 171 Shramik trains.
‘Shramik trains to run irrespective of destinations’
While there is no formal communication on the running of reverse Shramik trains from states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to Gujarat and Maharashtra, where migrant workers go for work, Railway officials said the ministry will continue running Shramik trains until there is demand from the states.
“The communication from Railways has been amply clear… It doesn’t say that people will be transported to their home states, it says they will be transported to their destination,” the official said. “So as long as there is demand from states to run Shramik trains, they will be run irrespective of the destinations.”
Some states like Punjab have already written to the Centre, asking for reverse Shramik trains, which would bring back workers to the state.
The official said the number of Shramik trains has been declining since 27 May.
The number of trains being run peaked in mid-May, with as many as 255 Shramik trains running per day, but it dropped to around 30 per day in June.
According to the records maintained by the Railways, between 1 May and 4 June, 4,261 Shramik trains were run, and 57.7 lakh passengers were ferried.
Special passenger trains show 67% occupancy
As for the 200 special trains, which were started by the Railways from 1 June, 12,69,246 passengers have booked tickets between 1-7 June, and the overall occupancy of these trains is 67.38 per cent, said a second Railway official.
According to an internal analysis by the Railways, the ticket-booking pattern is unidirectional, indicating that people are still booking one-way tickets — unsure of when they might want to return, said the official.
The booking trends are not like normal times, the official said, and in the Rajdhani specials and short-distance trains, the overall occupancy is particularly low.
The low occupancy could be a result of restrictions imposed by a few state governments, the official added.
Among the states from where the maximum number of special passenger trains have run are Delhi (38), Maharashtra (28), Bihar (24), Uttar Pradesh (19), West Bengal (17) and Gujarat (10), the official said.
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