Ministry’s decision will be based on request received by the States/UTs, Centre says in new guidelines

As lakhs of migrant workers continue to walk to reach their homes amid the ongoing lockdown, the Centre issued new guidelines on Tuesday that the schedule, destination and stoppage of Shramik Special trains will be decided by the Ministry of Railways (MoR) based on request received by the States.
It said that movement of these trains shall be permitted by Ministry of Railways in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Also read |Shramik Special trains to now have three stops, increased capacity
The lockdown first imposed on March 24 in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is currently in its fourth phase that will continue till May 31.
The May 1 standard operating protocol had said that these special trains would be run from point to point on the request of both the State governments concerned as per the standard protocols. This provision has been dropped in the fresh SOP issued by the MHA on Tuesday.
The fresh SOP says, the train schedule including stoppages and destination shall be finalised by MoR based on the requirements of the States/UTs and shall be communicated by the MoR to the States/UTs for making suitable arrangements for sending and receiving such stranded workers.
It said that train schedules and booking of tickets shall be publicised by the Railways. The States would have to ensure proper screening of passengers at railway stations and only asymptomatic ones would be allowed to board the trains.
MHA letter to States
In another letter to all States on Monday, the MHA said that lack of clarity on trains and buses coupled with rumours had caused unrest among the migrant workers. Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that fear of COVID-19 and apprehension of loss of livelihood were the main driving factors for movement of stranded migrants workers towards their homes.
The letter asked district authorities to ensure that no migrant worker had to resort to walking on roads or railway tracks and they may request the Ministry of Railways to run the trains. A similar letter was sent on May 11.
The MHA has asked Operation of more special trains by pro-active coordination between States and Ministry of Railways.
It directed States to increase the number of buses for transporting migrants, allowing entry of buses carrying migrants at inter-State bordersMore clarity may be given about departure of trains and buses, as lack of clarity coupled with rumours caused unrest amongst the workers.
Resting points
It said that local administration should designate resting points on routes where migrants were known to be walking with adequate facilities for sanitation, food and healthcare.
It asked district authorities to guide workers moving on foot to designated rest places, nearby bus terminals or railway stations by arranging transportation.
Special attention may be given to the specific requirements of women, children and elderly amongst the migrant workers. District Authorities may involve NGO representatives at rest places etc. to alleviate the notion of long quarantine at rest places. Workers may also be encouraged to remain at places where they are. Enlisting of the migrants with their addresses and contact numbers may be helpful in contact tracing in due course, the letter said, outlining some of the measures.