Migrant workers on Sunday boarded the Shramik special trains to return to their hometowns amid the nationwide lockdown to rein in the coronavirus pandemic. So far, 31 trains have operated and more are expected to run over the next 15 days, according to The Indian Express.
The decision of the Narendra Modi government to charge an additional fare of Rs 50 for migrant workers to return home in the trains, to be operated at the request of the state governments, has drawn flak from several Opposition leaders.
The lockdown, imposed first on March 25 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, was to end on May 3. However, it has been extended by another two weeks till May 17.
Railway Board Chairman VK Yadav said that it was a conscious call to not run these trains free of cost so that only those who intend to travel availed of the transport. “Problem is once you make services free, everyone is eligible to travel,” he added. “Then who is coming to the stations; who all are travelling would become a problem to track. This service is for stranded migrant workers, students etc and they are allowed to travel only after thorough screening. These trains are not for general public. So we are charging just nominal fare.”