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Home ministry allows special trains to take stranded workers, tourists, students home




Migrant workers aboard the first special train, which began its journey from Telangana to Jharkhand Friday morning | Photo: ANI
Migrant workers aboard the first special train, which began its journey from Telangana to Jharkhand Friday morning | Photo: ANI

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New Delhi: Succumbing to mounting pressure from several states, the central government Friday allowed special trains to take lakhs of migrant workers stuck in various locations to their home states.

The Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order Friday afternoon, allowing “the movement of migrant workers, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places, by special trains”.

The order said the Ministry of Railways will designate nodal officers to coordinate with states and UTs for the movement of these trains. “The Ministry of Railways will issue detailed guidelines for sale of tickets, and for social distancing and other safety measures to be observed at train stations, train platforms and within the trains.”

The first such train ran early Friday morning, even before the MHA’s order, to take back 1,225 migrant workers from Lingampalli in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand. The train left the station at 4.50 am, a senior railway ministry official said.

A senior railway ministry official told ThePrint that no schedule has been finalised for these trains as yet. But he added: “We are fully prepared.”

The Centre had Wednesday permitted states to start inter-state movement of buses to transport the migrant workers, stuck at relief camps in different states following the nationwide lockdown from 25 March. However, at least eight states had written to the Centre Thursday, demanding special trains, saying providing buses to ferry the migrant workers was “unviable”.

Currently, according to rough estimates given by the Centre, more than 1 crore migrant workers are stranded in different states across India.

Also read: How can Modi govt revive economic activity when CMs want migrant workers to return home?

The first train

To avoid overcrowding at the station, the Railways did not make any announcement about the Friday morning special train.

“The migrant labourers were brought to the railway station in 56 buses from the relief camp in Hyderabad. The station was properly barricaded and adequate RPF, GRP and local police personnel were deployed to guard the station from all sides to prevent entry of unauthorised persons,” the official quoted above said.

The migrant labourers were guided by RPF teams to the coaches and seated in a manner to maintain social distancing. “Tickets were issued to them by commercial staff. Food packets and water bottles were provided to them by state government officials,” the official added.

The move to send the train came after migrant workers living in relief camps inside the IIT Hyderabad premises indulged in violence and attacked policemen Thursday.

Also read: Modi needs to give migrant workers a ‘New Deal’ to get them back to the cities

Why states opposed buses

Bihar was first state to oppose the move to transport migrant workers through buses, calling it “impractical” and “unviable”. Other states joined the chorus soon after, including Jharkhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Telangana.

Speaking to ThePrint, Ashok Choudhary, minister in the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U)-BJP government in Bihar, told ThePrint: “We have approximately 25 lakh migrant labourers from Bihar working in other states. If we follow social distancing protocols, only 15-20 people will be able to travel in a bus at a time. We will require approximately 1.7 lakh buses and several months to bring them back.”

The JD(U) leader said the state did not have that many buses. “Also, the entire operation will require huge resources. It’s a completely impractical solution,” he said, adding that Bihar had written to the Centre, requesting special trains.

Even BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh had informally asked the Centre to provide special trains.

UP, approximately 15 lakh of whose migrant workers are stranded in other states, was the first to appoint nodal officers to coordinate with other states to bring back the workers.

State’s Transport Minister Ashok Kataria told ThePrint: “Currently, we have 11,500 state transport department buses. But we will require more private buses to bring back stranded labourers. It’s a mammoth exercise and our CM has said that if trains are not allowed, we are ready to bring them by buses irrespective of how much time it takes.”

UP had also prepared a quarantine centre with a capacity to accommodate 6lakh migrant workers. “This will be ramped up in the coming weeks to accommodate 15 lakh workers,” Kataria had said before the MHA’s announcement.

Another state that had vociferously demanded special trains was Kerala, which is housing 3.5 lakh migrant workers who hail from West Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Jharkhand.

Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had said: “Sending these people by bus will take five to six days. Is it practical in this weather? Also, who will provide them food during the journey?”

A state transport minister, who did not want to be named, added that the move to transport workers by bus would cost Rs 3,000-Rs 4,000 per person.

“If there are 1 crore migrant workers, the overall transportation cost would come to Rs 3,000 crore. If they are transported through train, not only will it take less time, but it will also cost far less,” the minister had said.

Also read: How Nitish put onus of solving Bihar’s problem of stranded migrants, students on Modi govt


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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