The Kerala government on Tuesday criticised the Centre for its handling of special trains amid the lockdown, saying its method of sending trains without prior information could derail the state’s protocol to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, ANI reported. This came after a train carrying workers from Mumbai allegedly reached the state unexpectedly.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Kerala had no objections to its people returning home but lack of prior information was posing problems and it could derail or “subvert” the state’s anti-coronavirus programme. “A train from Mumbai came without Kerala being informed,” he said. “This will subvert the surveillance system. I raised [the issue] with railways minister. But after this, another train was scheduled for Kerala from Delhi without informing the state.”
The chief minister said he had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising concerns about the issue. “We need to have the list in advance so that we can ensure proper arrangements for screening and home quarantine,” Vijayan said, according to NDTV. “Any failure to do so will undermine the measures taken by the government to ensure proper monitoring to prevent the spread of the disease.”
All passengers who arrive in Kerala are screened at the railway station and sent for home quarantine.
Meanwhile, the state’s finance minister Thomas Isaac alleged that the railways “want to be the super spreader” of the Covid-19 infection in Kerala. “A train came from Mumbai last week...[but] we were intimated only after train started,” he said in a tweet. “Unscheduled stops. Majority of passengers [have] no passes. Anarchy in pandemic times.” Isaac added that the Centre should “stop ranting” and “behave responsibly” by at least trying to track the trains.
Kerala has 1,004 coronavirus cases, with six deaths as of Wednesday. Many of these are people who have returned recently from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi.
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.
But on May 19, the Ministry of Railways said the consent of home states of migrants would no longer be required for the special trains that are ferrying them. 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.