71 Shramik Special trains were diverted, not lost, says Railways
After reports emerged that several Shramik Special trains got lost midway, the Indian Railways on Friday said 71 trains had to be diverted. The Railways said it had operated a total of 3,840 Shramik trains till Thursday adding that the requirement for these trains is now reducing. It also reiterated that the trains will run until all migrants have returned home.
Railway Board Chairperson Vinod Kumar Yadav said 3,840 Shramik trains ferried over 52 lakh passengers till Thursday. The trains started operating from May 1. In the past week (May 22-28), 1,524 trains ferried 20 lakh passengers, Yadav said, adding that the daily average number of trains during the period fell to 250. Yadav said there is a demand for 450 trains as of now.
Around 80% of all train passengers were headed to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. According to data revealed during the briefing, 42.2% passengers returned to UP, followed by Bihar (36.5%), Jharkhand (4.8%), Odisha (3.9%), Madhya Pradesh (3.2%), West Bengal (2.3%), and others (5.7%).
Yadav asserted that reports of trains getting lost are "fake news." He said the trains had only been diverted, and no trains had gotten lost. "No train can lose its way," he said. Yadav clarified that from May 1-19 and May 25-28, no trains were diverted. Trains were only diverted over a four-day period from May 20-24 due to congestion, he said.
Between May 20-24, 71 trains had to be diverted as 90% of all trains operating during the period were bound for UP and Bihar, Yadav said. To illustrate the extent of congestion in the region, Yadav said that Gorakhpur handled 36 trains on Thursday. Yadav also refuted allegations that the trains were delayed claiming that 3,500 trains ran faster than a Mail Express train.
Yadav said the fare for Shramik trains had not been hiked, despite it being a special train. He said, "If the cost of operating a Shramik Special is Rs. 100, Rs. 15 is collected from the train fare. Hence, Rs. 85 is being borne by the Railways." The Centre had earlier said it will bear 85% of the train's fare.
Responding to videos of migrants looting food and water, Yadav said that initially, persons hired for distributing food were apprehensive about entering trains due to COVID-19 leading to such a situation. Yadav added, "These instances have been reported in merely 2-3% of the trains."
When asked about reports of people dying due to insufficient food on trains, he said, "We conducted an analysis and found no shortage of food," adding that instances of death were rare. He also appealed to vulnerable groups—persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, children under the age of 10, persons above the age of 65—to avoid travel by rail, except when it is essential.