Forty eight days after Railways suspended its operations following the countrywide lockdown in view of Covid-19, the first passenger train carrying 992 people arrived at the Udhampur railway station in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday from Bengaluru.
As the train arrived in Udhampur at 11.30 am, the civil and police officials swung into action to ensure that passengers maintained social distance. One passenger at a time was allowed to come out from each of the 22 bogies and their details were collected on a mobile app, developed by the district administration. The passengers included students, labourers and even businessmen among others from Jammu and Kashmir who were stranded in Karnataka. Around 916 of them hailed from different districts of Kashmir Valley, 66 from Jammu division and 10 from the Union Territory of Ladakh.
About 44 officials were deployed for this Transit Information Management System, two for each bogie, said Udhampur Deputy Commissioner Piyush Singla. The data collected was simultaneously transmitted to their respective district administrations so that they could monitor how many people will be returning to their area.
These people were from various districts of both Jammu and Kashmir divisions, Singla said, adding after their registration, they were provided with food and drinking water bottles. Upon reaching their hometowns, they will be screened and put under administrative quarantine till they are tested negative, he said. Another train from Goa’s Thivim railway station is bringing nearly 1,100 stranded people to Udhampur in the evening, he said, adding that the administration was fully prepared to receive and send them to their native districts as per protocol.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to use RTPCR method for testing all people returning to the Union Territory. “All passengers arriving by train or any other means into the UT of Jammu and Kashmir shall be 100 per cent tested using the RTPCR method for which the Health and Medical Education Department is making the necessary arrangements,’’ read a government order issued by UT Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam. “All such passengers will be put into mandatory administrative quarantine by the nodal officers/concerned Deputy Commissioners/Divisional Commissioners till test reports come out to be negative, or till they are sent to hospital of the test results are positive,’’ the order read.
Meanwhile, the UT government is expecting return of 60,000 to 70,000 people by trains, said Commissioner-Secretary Industries and Commerce, Manoj K Dwivedi, who has been appointed the overall incharge for management of stranded people/returnees by train. The UT government has asked the railways to send a maximum of two trains a day with an interval of six to eight hours between them to be able to arrange their transportation to their native districts. These returnees will be medically screened at their native districts and quarantined there, he added.
Besides train travel, over 40,000 people have returned to UT by road over the past month. The return of people by road through Kathua’s Lakhanpur corridor, which has been allowed by UT government in a regulated manner, is still in progress.