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The Bihar government has announced that it would bring back more than 20 lakh migrant workers in about 800 trains over the next few days amid the COVID-19 crisis.
This decision of the state government comes after the Centre pushed to operate more 'Shramik Special' trains to ferry the stranded migrants back to their homes.
"From now on, 100 specials trains will run daily to bring back migrants to Bihar. After an agreement between Bihar and the Central government, altogether 800 trains will operate to bring back over 20 lakh migrants," Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted.
लॉकडाउन के दौरान प्रवासी मजदूरों की घर वापसी के लिए अब रोजाना 100 विशेष ट्रेनें चलायी जाएंगी।— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) May 19, 2020
रेलवे और राज्य सरकार के बीच बनी सहमति से और 20 लाख मजदूरों को लाने के लिए 800 से ज्यादा ट्रेनें चलायी जाएंगी। राज्य के भीतर 11 रेलगाड़ियां चल रही हैं।
बिहार पहुंचे लोगों को......... pic.twitter.com/MoY5rMRG4n
The Centre has made it clear that to run these Shramik trains, the consent of states and Union territories (UTs) would not be required any longer.
The guidelines for running the Shramik Specials, when they started on May 1, said that they would operate at the "request", and with the "consent", of the "receiving state". It further said that there would be no stops in between.
However, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its new SOPs (standard operating procedures) sent to the states said the "movement of Shramik Special trains shall be permitted by Ministry of Railways in consultation with Ministry of Home Affairs". The train schedule, including stops and destinations, shall be finalised by the Ministry of Railways, "based on the requirements of states/ UTs".
The UTs can now only designate nodal authorities and make arrangements for receiving or sending migrants.
The Centre recently alleged that some Opposition-ruled states were not allowing more trains to run.
"Within the next two days, Indian Railways will double the number of Shramik Special Trains to 400 per day. All migrants are requested to stay where they are, Indian Railways will get them back home over the next few days," Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted.
With in the next 2 days Indian Railways will double the number of Shramik Special Trains to 400 per day. All migrants are requested to stay where they are, Indian Railways will get them back home over the next few days.— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) May 19, 2020
According to sources, the Centre's decision follows a meeting between Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav on Monday, May 18.
"Without active coordination between sending and receiving states and with Railways, how can this set-up function? States have to proactively requisition trains, based on inputs from district authorities. Only then, Railways can allocate more trains. Moreover, sending and receiving states have to agree among themselves how many people they can send and receive," The Indian Express quoted an MHA official as saying, while denying that the states had no role in the process now.
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