During this COVID-19 pandemic, one sector which has been doing great services is undoubtedly the Indian Railways. In a recent report initiated by Invest India and prepared by Ankita Sharma & Strategic Investment Research Unit (SIRU) lists out the various noteworthy measures taken by the Indian Railways so far. Some of the key points:
Between March 25 to April 17,2020, under the aegis of the Ministry of Railways, special parcel trains have been instrumental in transporting 5.2 million tonnes of food grains across the country. In addition, the supply of fuel stocks, medical equipment and supplies, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and general goods are being made available in cities and villages through the Indian Railways. Due to this proactive stance, shortages of goods and food stocks have been largely minimized.
The Railways has been providing bulk cooked food with paper plates for lunch and food packets for dinner through IRCTC base kitchens, RPF resources and contribution of NGOs. As of April 20, Indian Railways crossed three million.
Proactive executive/administrative measures before the lock down included creation of an ‘Online Dashboard’ for better coordination between officials of the Railway Ministry and various Zonal Railways , constitution of a ‘COVID-19 Rapid Response Team’ comprising of six executive directors from Railway Board to coordinate the efforts of Indian Railways across all the zones and advisories to passengers to avoid non-essential train journeys and to ensure that they do not have running fever while they are commencing the journey
As additional measures to discourage unnecessary travel and to prevent the vulnerable category of senior citizens from undertaking unnecessary travels, concessional booking of all tickets except patients, students and divyangjan (specially-abled) category (for unreserved and reserved segment) were suspended on March 20. A total of 155 pairs of low occupancy trains were also cancelled up to March 31. The railways had also facilitated return of students stranded in northern part of the country.
Measures during lockdown
-Ministry of Railways, in consultation with Production Units & Zonal Railway workshops, decided to use the manufacturing facilities of its production units like Chittaranjan Loco Works, Chittaranjan, Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, Diesel Loco Works, Varanasi, Rail Wheel Factory, Yelehanka to manufacture essential items which can be utilized for the treatment of affected people by this pandemic. Essential items included – simple hospital beds, medical trolleys for hospitals and quarantine facilities, stretchers, hospital footsteps, hospital bedside lockers, washbasins with stands, ventilators, PPEs like masks, sanitizers, water tanks etc.
– Coaches were being modified to be used as isolation wards as a contingency measure. Each coach is equipped with one toilet and one bathroom each. Fixtures for medical equipment and oxygen cylinders have been installed.