New Delhi: The diversion of a Gorakhpur-bound migrant train to Odisha Saturday has brought to the fore the issue of congestion on railway routes as a result of hundreds of trains being run to a select few states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar daily.
Only days ago Railways Minister Piyush Goyal announced that his ministry is equipped to run 300 Shramik trains a day. However, migrants who left Maharashtra on a train bound for Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, suddenly found themselves in Rourkela, Odisha, when the journey ended.
Passengers said they were not informed about the change in route, but were later told it was to “avoid congestion” on the route.
Several passengers posted about it on Twitter.
— Tarun (@tarunp_in) May 23, 2020
One of the passengers, whose video is being widely circulated, said the driver told the passengers that he had forgotten the way.
However, a red-faced railways ministry said it had made a conscious decision to run Shramik trains on diverted routes.
‘Congestion bound to happen’
An official with the railways ministry confirmed that some trains were diverted for Bihar via Rourkela Friday to clear congestion.
“We have decided to run few of the Shramik trains on diverted routes… There are hundreds of migrant trains running at the moment, so congestion is bound to happen,” the official said.
Referring to Gorakhpur-Rourkela diversion, he said, “There would have been some operational compulsion for the diversions … The Railways has been operationalising things in extremely challenging times. Movement and converging of hundreds of trains in direction of one or two states from all kinds of train routes is a complex exercise. It has never happened before in the country like this. We are managing.”
The Shramik Spl train planned today from Old Delhi railway station to Deoria Sadar via Lucknow station departed at 20.50 hrs today as against scheduled 17.30 hrs.
The train got late because of the delay in logistic as well as other norms of the Covid-19 by State Authorities.
— Northern Railway (@RailwayNorthern) May 18, 2020
What about 10hrs delay of shramik trains and no food and water. Would you like to comment on that?
— Raju Kumar Singh (@RajuSingh7) May 23, 2020
Western Railway spokesperson Ravindra Bhakar in a statement said, “It is to inform that Vasai Road-Gorakhpur Shramik Special train which departed on May 21 was to run on Kalyan-Jalgoan-Bhusaval-Khandwa-Itarsi-Jabalpur-Manikpur route but this train will go to Gorakhpur by diverted route via Bilaspur (SECR), Jharsuguda, Rourkela, Adra, Asansol (ER) due to heavy traffic congestion on existing routes.”
“Due to heavy congestion on Itarsi-Jabalpur-Pt. Deen Dayal Nagar route in view of running of large numbers of Shramik Special trains, it is decided by the Railway Board to run the trains originating from Vasai Road, Udhna, Surat, Valsad, Ankleshwar of WR, Konkan Railway and some stations of CR temporarily on diverted route via Bilaspur – Jharsugda – Raurkela,” he said.
‘Govt has set unrealistic target’
According to official data with the railways, up to 31 lakh migrant workers on board 2,317 Shramik Special trains were transported to their home states since 1 May, and the railways is trying to ratchet up its capacity even further to contain the migrant crisis.
However, a senior railways official, who did not wish to be named, said, “The government has increased the number of Shramik Trains to an unrealistic target … It is not possible to run 300 trains a day, especially when they are converging into the same states more or less.
“Of course, these issues will come up … There has to be capacity to run these trains,” he added.
The railways ministry has been under pressure from the Centre to ensure that all migrants wishing to go to their homes are transported smoothly via Shramik trains, and they are not left to walk the road or on railway tracks to their hometowns.
As a result, Union Minister Goyal had last week tweeted: “As per the directions of Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi ji, Railways is fully geared up to run 300 Shramik Special trains every day at short notice since the last six days.
“I appeal to all the States to give permission to evacuate and bring back their stranded migrants so that we can get all of them back to their homes in the next 3-4 days itself,” he said in another tweet.
Minister of State for Railways, Suresh Angadi said he was aware of some pileups of trains in the past week, and was looking into the issue.
“I have spoken to the Chairman, Railway Board, and am monitoring the issue. I will ensure the congestion is cleared soon,” he was quoted as saying by media portal RailPost.in, which also reported that there had been large pileups of trains between Bhusawal (Maharashtra) and Itarsi (Madhya Pradesh) junctions of Central and West Central Railway Saturday.