NEW DELHI — In a major relief to tens of thousands migrant workers eager to return to their village homes from cities and towns, Indian Railways will be doubling the number of special trains for them and also run 200 new trains across the country from June 1.
Indian Railways in a statement says that it has operated more than 1,600 trains for migrant workers and transported over 2.1 million of them to their home states in the past 19 days.
Passengers are required to wear masks and undergo health screenings before being permitted to board. The return of these workers in huge numbers has raised fears of many of them carrying infections to their home states from cities and towns.
Thousands of workers have been crowding rail stations, bus stations and highways with their wives and children in blazing heat anxious to return to their homes. They say the they can resume farming and also take up jobs like building roads, water harvesting in drought-hit areas and construction of animal shelters under a government program that guarantees 100 days of employment a year in rural India for 200 rupees ($2.65) per person per day.
The Railways statement on Tuesday appealed to the migrants not to panic.
The number of coronavirus cases in India have surged past 100,000 with nearly 4,000 deaths. Almost 39,000 people have recovered from the illness. India’s two-month-old lockdown has been extended until May-end.
The railway system is often described as India’s lifeline, transporting 23 million people across the vast subcontinent each day, some 8.4 billion passengers each.