Railway minister Piyush Goyal (File photo)
NEW DELHI: Railway minister Piyush Goyal on Sunday said the public transporter, which is set to re-introduce several train services from Monday, transported nearly twice the amount of foodgrain as the corresponding period last year during the lockdown besides ensuring there was no shortage of coal to fire power plants or even milk and medicines.
“You need to give full credit to the railway personnel who are corona warriors and worked hard to ensure there was no shortage of foodgrain or even coal to keep power plants running,” Goyal told TOI in an interview. He also strongly countered criticism over handling the transport of migrants, which has seen 54 lakh people move from their places of work to their hometowns on 4,040 Shramik Specials.
“There were 80 deaths on these trains, which is probably less than what we see in the normal course. We can’t test each passenger, and in this case, states had to test the passengers before they boarded,” he said.
Asked about the widely reported death of a 35-year-old woman in Muzaffarpur, the minister said the passenger of the train that covered the distance from Ahmedabad in 41 hours against the usual 43 hours, was attended to the moment the situation was brought to the attention of the railway police. He said the child in the photograph removing the sheet from her body was not hers. She was travelling with her sister’s family.
Goyal said the doctor who attended to her declared her dead and her family members said the death had occurred a few hours earlier and they only contacted the policemen on the train after speaking to relatives on phone. “There was no delay after it was brought to our attention… There is not a single case of death due to starvation or hunger on trains. Some pregnant women delivered on the train, but they should have been checked before they were allowed to board. It was the responsibility of the states,” he added.
The minister also dismissed criticism over delays, saying up to May 19, most trains reached their destinations ahead of time. “They were point-to-point trains with few stoppages and the average speed was 50-60 km per hour. Delays started from May 20 when states wanted more stoppages and it took several hours, resulting in bunching,” he said.
With 83% of the 256 trains a day going to UP and Bihar, the railways found itself dealing with a situation where there was a pile-up around Kanpur and Mughalsarai as most trains started late in the evening, instead of being evenly spread out through the day, Goyal said. This prompted some trains to take alternative routes but the number, the minister insisted, was small.
“Not a single train was lost. In all, 71 trains were diverted over five days and no train took seven or nine days to reach its destination,” he said. Goyal also blamed states such as Maharashtra for reserving trains but not running them, resulting in a “diversion of resources”.