97 people died on board Shramik Specials, say government

Earlier, it said it did not have data on the workers who had lost jobs/lives during pandemic

Ninty-seven people lost their lives while travelling in the Shramik Special trains, which were run to help migrant workers stranded due to the nationwide lockdown to reach their home State, the government on Wednesday told Parliament.

The statement comes two days after the government had told Parliament that it did not have any data on the workers who had lost their jobs and lives during the pandemic.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said, โ€œBased on the data provided by the State police, 97 persons were reported to have passed away till 09.09.2020 while travelling on board Shramik Special trains during COVID-19.โ€

He said the State police had sent the bodies for post-mortem in 87 cases. โ€œ51 post-mortem reports have been received from respective State police so far, in which reasons for deaths have been shown as cardiac arrest/heart disease/brain haemorrhage/pre-existing chronic disease/chronic lung disease/chronic liver disease etc,โ€ he said.

The Minister said policing on the Railways is a State subject and prevention of crime, registration of cases, their investigation and maintenance of law and order in the Railway premises as well as running trains are the statutory responsibility of the State governments. They discharge these duties through the Government Railway Police (GRP)/District Police and Railway Protection Force (RPF) supplement the efforts of GRP/District Police to provide better protection and security of passenger area & passengers and for related matters.

On Monday, replying to queries on whether the government was aware that many migrant workers had lost lives and whether any assessment of the job loss had been done, Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar had in a written reply to the Lok Sabha said, โ€œNo such data is maintained.โ€

Mr. Gangwar said over 1.04 crore migrant workers had returned to their home State with more than 32.49 lakh returning to Uttar Pradesh and about 15 lakh to Bihar.

As per the Railways data, it ran 4,621 specials beginning May 1, transporting 63.19 lakh passengers. The top five destination States were Uttar Pradesh (1,726 trains), Bihar (1,627), West Bengal (284), Odisha (244) and Jharkhand (222).

In a separate reply to queries on the fare on these trains, Mr. Goyal said, โ€œFare of โ‚น433 crore has been collected from the State governments and from the representatives of the State governments for running them from 01.05.2020 to 31.08.2020.โ€

He said the Railways could recover a small fraction of expenditure incurred on running them thereby incurring a loss.

Mr. Goyal said such special trains in normal circumstances are booked by the State governments/any agency or by an individual on full tariff rates, which includes normal fare for both directions, service charge, empty haulage charge and detention charge.

โ€œThe Railways allowed booking of the specials on normal fare for one direction only. Special arrangements like enhanced sanitisation, security, medical arrangement, rake sanitisation, free meals, water etc. added to the overall cost of running them,โ€ he said.

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