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Only asymptomatic people to be allowed to travel in trains from Tuesday: MHA

Ahead of the resumption of select passenger train services, the Home Ministry Monday made it clear that only asymptomatic people with confirmed tickets will be allowed to travel in 15 trains to be operational from Tuesday, nearly 50 days since all passenger services halted due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Only asymptomatic people to be allowed to travel in trains from Tuesday: MHA

New Delhi

Listing the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla issued an order that wearing face masks and ensuring social distancing norms while entering a railway station and travel is compulsory.

For the first time since March 25, when the lockdown began, the Railways will operate 15 trains beginning Tuesday from New Delhi for different destinations spread over the Northeast, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, among others.

The Railways have been running Shramik Special trains for ferrying migrant workers since May 1, but this will be the first time that general public can take train journeys even though flight and interstate bus services remain suspended.

"Only those passengers with confirmed e-tickets shall be allowed to enter the station. The movement of the passenger(s) as well as the driver of the vehicle transporting the passenger(s) to and fro the railway station shall be allowed on the basis of the confirmed e-ticket," the order said.

The Ministry of Railways will ensure that passengers are compulsorily screened and only those who are asymptomatic are allowed to enter or board a train and all passengers shall be provided hand sanitiser at stations as well as in coaches.

The order asked all passengers to strictly adhere to health protocols prescribed by respective state and union territories at the disembarking stations.

Giving an indication that the government is inclined to allow more trains to ply, the home ministry said the movement of trains shall be permitted by the Ministry of Railways in a graded manner, in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

"Train schedule, protocols for booking, entry and movement of passengers, and coach service specifications shall be widely publicised by the Ministry of Railways," the order said.

The Home Ministry along with the Railway Ministry also organised a video conference on movement of migrant labourers by Shramik Special trains Monday morning.

After the meeting, it was announced that over 100 trains are expected to run daily for next few weeks to facilitate faster movement of stranded workers to their native places.

Nodal officers of states and union territories participated in the video conference where it was appreciated that more than 450 trains, including 101 on Sunday, have departed carrying several lakh migrant workers.

Several issues were discussed and redressed and it was emphasised that migrant labourers should be reassured that sufficient numbers of trains would be run for travel of all those wishing to go home, an official statement said.

In a separate letter to chief secretaries of state and union territories, Bhalla said it was noted with great concern that migrant workers continue to walk on roads and railway tracks to return to their native places and asked states to ensure that they travel home on the special trains being run for them from various parts of the country.

Referring to a meeting held by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Sunday, Bhalla said, in the meeting, migrant workers walking on roads and railway tracks was noted with great concern.

"Since their movement by buses and 'Shramik' special trains has already started, states and UTs should ensure that migrant workers do not resort to walking on road and on railway tracks," he said.

In case they are found in such condition, the home secretary said, they should be appropriately counselled, taken to nearby shelters and provided with food, water etc. till such time they are facilitated to board the Shramik Special trains or buses to their native places.

Further, Bhalla said, as requested by the cabinet secretary, all state/UT governments should cooperate with the railways in running more Shramik Special trains so that travel of stranded migrant workers is facilitated at a faster rate.

Sixteen migrant workers, who were walking back home to Madhya Pradesh from Maharashtra, were mowed down by a goods train in Maharashtra's Aurangabad last week after they fell asleep on railway tracks.

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