The Indian Railways has run more than 1,600 ‘Shramik Special’ trains since May 1 and ferried over 21.5 lakh migrants back home, the national transporter said on Tuesday.
More than 900 trains were bound to Uttar Pradesh, while Bihar permitted 428 and Madhya Pradesh over 100, it said.
“Within the next 2 days Indian Railways will double the number of Shramik Special Trains to 400 per day. All migrants are requested to stay where they are, Indian Railways will get them back home over the next few days, said Railway Minister Piyush Goyal in a tweet.
The operation of these trains has, however, led to a political mud-slinging, with the opposition accusing the Centre of charging fares from migrants and the central government accusing some states having non-BJP governments of not providing permission for the special trains to run.
To increase the number of Shramik Specials, the Railways on Tuesday said it no longer needed the consent of the destination states to operate such trains.
The central government has issued a standard operating procedure which said that for running such trains, permission will be given by the Ministry of Railways in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Railway spokesperson Rajesh Dutt Bajpai said, “Consent of terminating state not necessary to run Shramik Special trains”.
“After the new SoP, the implication is that no consent of the receiving state is mandatory,” he added.
Over the last few weeks, the Centre has alleged that some states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, which have a significant migrant population in other states, were not giving permission for the special trains, resulting in lakhs of migrant workers walking towards their homes.
While the states have denied the allegations, data has shown otherwise.
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.
The new rule of bypassing the destination state will significantly ease the movement of migrants, officials said, with railways needing approval only from the originating states.
The national transporter hopes to run up to 200 such trains daily and carry the remaining migrants home over the next week, officials said.
On Tuesday, the Railways also said that it would operate 200 non-air conditioned second class sleeper trains from June 1 to help migrants reach their homes.
In a statement, it urged the migrants not to panic, and said efforts are being made to ensure that all of them are able to travel to their home states at the earliest. “Efforts will be made such that they will be able to board trains from railway station head on mainline which is close to their existing location,” it said.
“Railways has asked the state governments to identify and locate these migrants who are walking on roads to go to their home states and transport them to the nearest main line railway station after doing their registration at the nearest district headquarters and give a list of these travellers to railway authorities so that arrangements can be made for their further travel through Shramik specials,” it said.
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.
A ‘Shramik Special’ train carries around 1,700 passengers, instead of the earlier 1,200, to ferry as many workers home as possible.
Initially, these trains had no scheduled stoppages during the journey, but the Railways now allows up to three stoppages in the destination states.