The Ministry of Railways on Tuesday said the consent of home states of migrants would no longer be required for the special trains that are ferrying them amid the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, PTI reported.

The decision came hours after the Ministry of Home Affairs released a revised standard operating procedure for the railways to run the ‘Shramik’ special trains. In its new guidelines, the home ministry said the railways would be required to consult with it to allow the movement of the special trains. The schedule of the trains, including stoppages and destination, will also be finalised by the railways based on the states’ requirements.

“The consent of terminating state is not necessary to run Shramik Special trains,” railways spokesperson Rajesh Bajpai told the news agency. “After the new standard operating procedure, the implication is that the consent of receiving states is not mandatory.”

When the Centre started special trains for stranded migrant workers on May 1, the standard operating protocol was for the departing and receiving states to coordinate on movement. On May 9, the government alleged that West Bengal and certain other states were blocking the movement of trains.

The Centre claims that it has run more than 1,500 special trains since May 1 to ferry over 17 lakh stranded people to their home states, according to PTI.

The government has been criticised for the plight of migrant workers, who continue to make desperate journeys home on foot or on any mode of transport they can find. Videos and pictures have emerged of hordes of migrants walking barefoot in the searing hit, carrying their children and elderly parents. Several migrant workers have been killed in accidents on their way.

In Tuesday’s order, the government directed the states to arrange for rest places, food and shelter for migrants who are on their way back to their villages on foot.

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