Consent of destination states not required to run Shramik Special trains: Railways

Consent of destination states  not required to run Shramik Special trains: Railways
Stranded migrants arrive to board a train to return to their homes during the nationwide lockdown, imposed in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, at a railway station in Ahmedabad on May 8. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: After a political slugfest between the centre and the states over the movement of migrant workers on the Shramik Special trains, the railways on Tuesday said the consent of the destination states is not required to operate such trains.

The statement from a spokesperson of the railways came hours after the Central government issued a standard operating procedure which said that for running the Shramik Special trains, permission will be given by the Ministry of Railways in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

States and union territories should designate nodal authorities and make necessary arrangements for receiving and sending such stranded people, said the SOP issued by the MHA.

However, the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Railways on May 2 for the Shramik Special trains had said: "The consent of receiving state shall be obtained by originating state, and a copy provided to Railways before departure of train".

Railway spokesperson Rajesh Dutt Bajpai on Tuesday said, "Consent of terminating state not necessary to run Shramik Special trains".

He further said, "After the new SoP, the implication is that no consent of the receiving state is mandatory".

Over the last few weeks, the centre has alleged that some states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan which have a significant migrant population in other states were not giving permission for the migrant trains resulting in lakhs of them walking towards their homes hundreds of kilometers away.

While the states have denied the allegations, data has shown otherwise.

In a step that will significantly ease the movement of migrants with railways needing approval only from the originating states, the national transporter hopes to run up to 300 such trains and carry the remaining migrants home over the next week, officials said.

While Uttar Pradesh has allowed 837 trains into the state, Bihar has received 428 and Madhya Pradesh more than 100 trains, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet on Tuesday.

However, till Monday evening, some other migrant heavy states had agreed to receive very few trains -- Chhattisgarh approved only 19 trains, Rajasthan only 33 trains and Jharkhand only 72 trains, according to official data.

According to officials, while the railways has the capacity to run around 300 trains per day, it is operating half of that number because destination states are not sending an adequate number of approvals.

Officials also said states like Gujarat , Maharashtra and Kerala are ready to send migrants home, but many of the receiving states have not given approval.

However, it is to be seen how the payment for such trains come in. While railways in its guidelines has said that the onus of payment of train fares is with the state governments from where such trains are originating, many a times the money has been shared between the two concerned state governments.

Railways is yet to come out with a revised guideline explaining the changes in protocol.

Since May 1, the railways has run 1,565 migrant trains and ferried over 20 lakh stranded migrants to their native places during the countrywide lockdown.  

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