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Why are only trains carrying migrants being ‘diverted’ to take longer routes?

Operations, and conditions abroad the so called Shramik Specials, are a train wreck that has shamed Indian Railways like never before. When will the Rail Minister take note?

Karuna John 28 May 2020

Indian RailwayImage Courtesy:millenniumpost.in

“This train started from Vasai [Mumbai, Maharashtra] to reach Gorakhpur [Uttar Pradesh] three days ago. We were told it will go to Gorakhpur directly but it has taken us to Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Kolkata. These s**f***ks are taking us all over the country. What is the point of getting us to Jharkhand, Orissa,” the migrant worker standing on a railway platform is ringing angry, loud and clear.

The video of the trainload of migrant workers who have been stuck on these virtual prisons on wheels exposes the complete failure of the State, and even alleged a sinister conspiracy against migrant workers hoping to go to their hometowns and villages.

As the so-called diversions have extended journeys by many days, those on board are suffering even more than they were in the cities they are trying to escape.

“Innocent children are stuck on this train for three days now. Everyone is dying of hunger, there is no water. Children are falling sick,” said the man as a crowd gathered around him on the platform. The train had once again halted at Jharkhand and no official was there to help alleged the migrant worker. “We are all gathered here. There is no assistance from the government, people are on the platform here, we are hassled. We are not stuck in Jharkhand. No one has any answers. The station master has gone inside” his anguish is palpable. His question is simple: Why is this being done to us? The ‘us’ are men, women, and children who have suffered the most in the wake of the sudden Covid-19 lockdown and had boarded the train in good faith, trusting the Indian Railways to take them home safely. 

The railways have no answer. Instead, they offered a clarification justifying this dangerous delay, and issued a statement, promptly reported in the Deccan Herald, which stated: “A Shramik Special train which started its journey from Mumbai for Gorakhpur on May 21 was to take the Kalyan-Jalgoan-Bhusaval-Khandwa-Itarsi-Jabalpur-Manikpur route but instead it was diverted to Gorakhpur via Bilaspur (SECR), Jharsuguda, Rourkela, Asansol,” the DH reported that according to the Indian railways, it was ‘not a diversion, but rationalisation of routes’. 

Why was this done only to the Shramik Special trains? How is this ‘rationalisation’? A bizarre phenomenon that has never been seen in the history of Indian Railways, has been unfolding on its tracks over the past few days. Special trains carrying migrant labourers back to their native states have been ‘diverted’ without warning, say news reports, and are reaching destinations via routes that they have never taken before.

This train to Gorakhpur travelling across new and longer routes, is not a one-off incident. These unplanned, and many have alleged irrational, diversions have added days to the original journeys. Stuck on board, often without food and water, migrant workers across the country are now facing a greater risk than they did when faced with the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, loss of jobs and habitat. 

They now find themselves stranded on board, or at railway stations they are not familiar with. And as reported earlier, without food, water, medical facilities. Where is the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal? Today, he was busy “addressing an online Digital Summit on Exports organised by CII via Video Conferencing”


Before that he paid tributes to VD Savarkar, “राष्ट्रवाद को लेकर जीने वाले, और उसके लिये पूरा जीवन संघर्ष करने वाले वीर सावरकर जी के जन्मदिवस पर उन्हें मेरा नमन।

घोर कष्ट सहने के बाद भी मातृभूमि के लिये उनका प्रेम अडिग रहा, उन्होंने अपना जीवन देश के लिये जिया, और युवाओं के लिये वह एक प्रेरणा बन गये।”


Meanwhile, some more questions were raised by social worker Pravesh Jain who had asked his contact, “a senior IRTS officer with railways (Traffic), on “how could a train left Mumbai for Gorakhpur but landed at Rourkela and also why trains are running 24-72 hours late. His instant reply was total system failure (sic)”


Jain’s thread, though not independently verified yet, has since then gone viral. He posted that “system of railway is so robust and disciplined that such mistakes are not possible at all.” He says, “All trains have train number when they start, it has a destination point, it has a route charge like via via train will reach its destination. It has a crew team. Crew team consist of Loco pilot (Driver) Asstt loco pilot ( asstt driver) Guard. The loco pilot, asstt loco pilot and guard and other staff like TT etc who have to replace the new crew mentioned in the chart. New crew is waiting at a particular railway station. (sic)”


As is known, the official apparently told Jain that the “Indian Railway is controlled by Control Rooms and sub control Rooms like when a plane is flying in air it is controlled by ATC. So, the moment a train by mistake takes a wrong route it is alerted by control room. Trains are diverted only when there is accident enroute.” 

He posted that during traffic congestion trains are not diverted but can “at best be delayed, that too for few hours. Not for many hours and many days. In fact, now there is not much traffic also. Delaying of train and diversion is beyond understandable.”

The thread, which we repeat has not been verified independently and is so far a personal opinion of the anonymous source as told to the person who posted it, has pointed at a “failure of the system. Many many heads must roll. Those in control room monitoring the movement of trains must be answerable so the top brass of traffic. (sic)”

This critical information too perhaps has not reached the railway minister the night before, as instead of responding, he showcased “an intricate work of music & art, take a look at a Patachitra, ancient folk art of West Bengal. Singing a beautiful song while unfurling a vivid painting, the artist has creatively depicted how health workers are taking care of the people during the COVID-19 time.”

All this while migrant workers were said to be waiting for food and water on the ‘diverted’ and hence delayed trains. Reports of deaths, some say because of hunger and dehydration claiming the life of the victims already suffering from poor health. The dead include innocent children. People may claim they are hungry and thirsty but before any food or water is provided, the system was quick to silence those voices.  

Official Railways social media handles were quick to share perfectly timed photos of large amounts of food on clean train berths, a phenomenon that is not even seen during normal train journeys: “#Food & Water being kept ready on berths of #MigrantWorkers before boarding for travelling by #ShramikSpecialTrains #BackHome @RailMinIndia

This was an echo of the claims made by the Ministry of Railways itself: “Indian Railways operationalises 3274 “Shramik Special” trains till 25th May, across the country and transports more than 44 lacs passengers to their home states Distributes more than 74 lakh free meals and more than 1 crore water bottles to travelling migrants”

Official ‘fact checks’ also denied news reports, PIB Fact Check posted: “Claim:40 trains are diverted from their route. #PIBFactcheck:This is INCORRECT. Trains have not been lost. Congestion due to 80% Shramik spl trains going to UP & Bihar. Thus, trains diverted to reach destinations by other feasible routes as per practice followed in regular ops.

It is important to note here that the news report of another Shramik special train from Gujarat to Bihar ending up in Bengaluru was pulled down by Deccan Herald, and later Firstpost news portal which instead posted this “Editor's Note: This article was based on an exclusive Deccan Herald report claiming that a Shramik special train from Gujarat to Bihar ended up in Bengaluru. As Deccan Herald has since taken down the report, Firstpost is also withdrawing its article.” 

Related:

For migrant labourers returning home even the special trains are becoming death traps
Has allowing non-emergency air travel so soon given wings to Covid-19 pandemic as well?

Why are only trains carrying migrants being ‘diverted’ to take longer routes?

Operations, and conditions abroad the so called Shramik Specials, are a train wreck that has shamed Indian Railways like never before. When will the Rail Minister take note?

Indian RailwayImage Courtesy:millenniumpost.in

“This train started from Vasai [Mumbai, Maharashtra] to reach Gorakhpur [Uttar Pradesh] three days ago. We were told it will go to Gorakhpur directly but it has taken us to Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Kolkata. These s**f***ks are taking us all over the country. What is the point of getting us to Jharkhand, Orissa,” the migrant worker standing on a railway platform is ringing angry, loud and clear.

The video of the trainload of migrant workers who have been stuck on these virtual prisons on wheels exposes the complete failure of the State, and even alleged a sinister conspiracy against migrant workers hoping to go to their hometowns and villages.

As the so-called diversions have extended journeys by many days, those on board are suffering even more than they were in the cities they are trying to escape.

“Innocent children are stuck on this train for three days now. Everyone is dying of hunger, there is no water. Children are falling sick,” said the man as a crowd gathered around him on the platform. The train had once again halted at Jharkhand and no official was there to help alleged the migrant worker. “We are all gathered here. There is no assistance from the government, people are on the platform here, we are hassled. We are not stuck in Jharkhand. No one has any answers. The station master has gone inside” his anguish is palpable. His question is simple: Why is this being done to us? The ‘us’ are men, women, and children who have suffered the most in the wake of the sudden Covid-19 lockdown and had boarded the train in good faith, trusting the Indian Railways to take them home safely. 

The railways have no answer. Instead, they offered a clarification justifying this dangerous delay, and issued a statement, promptly reported in the Deccan Herald, which stated: “A Shramik Special train which started its journey from Mumbai for Gorakhpur on May 21 was to take the Kalyan-Jalgoan-Bhusaval-Khandwa-Itarsi-Jabalpur-Manikpur route but instead it was diverted to Gorakhpur via Bilaspur (SECR), Jharsuguda, Rourkela, Asansol,” the DH reported that according to the Indian railways, it was ‘not a diversion, but rationalisation of routes’. 

Why was this done only to the Shramik Special trains? How is this ‘rationalisation’? A bizarre phenomenon that has never been seen in the history of Indian Railways, has been unfolding on its tracks over the past few days. Special trains carrying migrant labourers back to their native states have been ‘diverted’ without warning, say news reports, and are reaching destinations via routes that they have never taken before.

This train to Gorakhpur travelling across new and longer routes, is not a one-off incident. These unplanned, and many have alleged irrational, diversions have added days to the original journeys. Stuck on board, often without food and water, migrant workers across the country are now facing a greater risk than they did when faced with the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, loss of jobs and habitat. 

They now find themselves stranded on board, or at railway stations they are not familiar with. And as reported earlier, without food, water, medical facilities. Where is the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal? Today, he was busy “addressing an online Digital Summit on Exports organised by CII via Video Conferencing”


Before that he paid tributes to VD Savarkar, “राष्ट्रवाद को लेकर जीने वाले, और उसके लिये पूरा जीवन संघर्ष करने वाले वीर सावरकर जी के जन्मदिवस पर उन्हें मेरा नमन।

घोर कष्ट सहने के बाद भी मातृभूमि के लिये उनका प्रेम अडिग रहा, उन्होंने अपना जीवन देश के लिये जिया, और युवाओं के लिये वह एक प्रेरणा बन गये।”


Meanwhile, some more questions were raised by social worker Pravesh Jain who had asked his contact, “a senior IRTS officer with railways (Traffic), on “how could a train left Mumbai for Gorakhpur but landed at Rourkela and also why trains are running 24-72 hours late. His instant reply was total system failure (sic)”


Jain’s thread, though not independently verified yet, has since then gone viral. He posted that “system of railway is so robust and disciplined that such mistakes are not possible at all.” He says, “All trains have train number when they start, it has a destination point, it has a route charge like via via train will reach its destination. It has a crew team. Crew team consist of Loco pilot (Driver) Asstt loco pilot ( asstt driver) Guard. The loco pilot, asstt loco pilot and guard and other staff like TT etc who have to replace the new crew mentioned in the chart. New crew is waiting at a particular railway station. (sic)”


As is known, the official apparently told Jain that the “Indian Railway is controlled by Control Rooms and sub control Rooms like when a plane is flying in air it is controlled by ATC. So, the moment a train by mistake takes a wrong route it is alerted by control room. Trains are diverted only when there is accident enroute.” 

He posted that during traffic congestion trains are not diverted but can “at best be delayed, that too for few hours. Not for many hours and many days. In fact, now there is not much traffic also. Delaying of train and diversion is beyond understandable.”

The thread, which we repeat has not been verified independently and is so far a personal opinion of the anonymous source as told to the person who posted it, has pointed at a “failure of the system. Many many heads must roll. Those in control room monitoring the movement of trains must be answerable so the top brass of traffic. (sic)”

This critical information too perhaps has not reached the railway minister the night before, as instead of responding, he showcased “an intricate work of music & art, take a look at a Patachitra, ancient folk art of West Bengal. Singing a beautiful song while unfurling a vivid painting, the artist has creatively depicted how health workers are taking care of the people during the COVID-19 time.”

All this while migrant workers were said to be waiting for food and water on the ‘diverted’ and hence delayed trains. Reports of deaths, some say because of hunger and dehydration claiming the life of the victims already suffering from poor health. The dead include innocent children. People may claim they are hungry and thirsty but before any food or water is provided, the system was quick to silence those voices.  

Official Railways social media handles were quick to share perfectly timed photos of large amounts of food on clean train berths, a phenomenon that is not even seen during normal train journeys: “#Food & Water being kept ready on berths of #MigrantWorkers before boarding for travelling by #ShramikSpecialTrains #BackHome @RailMinIndia

This was an echo of the claims made by the Ministry of Railways itself: “Indian Railways operationalises 3274 “Shramik Special” trains till 25th May, across the country and transports more than 44 lacs passengers to their home states Distributes more than 74 lakh free meals and more than 1 crore water bottles to travelling migrants”

Official ‘fact checks’ also denied news reports, PIB Fact Check posted: “Claim:40 trains are diverted from their route. #PIBFactcheck:This is INCORRECT. Trains have not been lost. Congestion due to 80% Shramik spl trains going to UP & Bihar. Thus, trains diverted to reach destinations by other feasible routes as per practice followed in regular ops.

It is important to note here that the news report of another Shramik special train from Gujarat to Bihar ending up in Bengaluru was pulled down by Deccan Herald, and later Firstpost news portal which instead posted this “Editor's Note: This article was based on an exclusive Deccan Herald report claiming that a Shramik special train from Gujarat to Bihar ended up in Bengaluru. As Deccan Herald has since taken down the report, Firstpost is also withdrawing its article.” 

Related:

For migrant labourers returning home even the special trains are becoming death traps
Has allowing non-emergency air travel so soon given wings to Covid-19 pandemic as well?

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Report of the CABE Committee on 'Regulatory Mechanisms for Textbooks and Parallel Textbooks Taught in Schools Outside the Government System

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