Over 10 lakh migrant workers, stranded in cities due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown since March 25, have travelled home in 806 ‘Shramik Special’ trains so far, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Thursday.
“The state and the Centre are working together to ensure migrants return to their home states,” Sitharaman said while announcing the second tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India Mission) economic package to cushion Covid-19 blows on the economy.
The Finance Minister added that there are 1,200 Shramik Special trains available and ready to ply to transport stranded migrant workers. Every day, at least 300 trains can run.
So far, the Railways has run 806 Shramik Special trains in which 10 lakh migrant workers have returned to their destinations, with most number of trains, 386, being run from Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
The cost is borne by the Centre and the state governments, with the Centre paying 85% of the total bill, while the state spends 15%, claimed Sitharaman. The Centre takes about “3-5 hours to arrange for trains” after being informed of such by the state government, she added.
Earlier, the Railways invited criticism from opposition parties for charging for these services.
Giving details of the economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation Tuesday, Sitharaman said the initiatives today focuses on migrant workers, street vendors, small traders, the self-employed and small farmers. Elaborating on the relief for migrants, the minister said the government has permitted state governments to utilise SDRF for setting up the shelter for migrants and providing them food and water.
“We are conscious, we are attending to the migrants and giving them in various different ways, said Sitharaman. Unveiling the second tranche of the economic stimulus package, Sitharaman announced three measures for the distressed migrant workers.
Firstly, migrant workers, who are neither National Food Security Act (NFSA) or State Card beneficiaries in the state they are stationed, will be provided 5 kg of grains per person and 1 kg Chana per family per month free for two months, the Finance Minister said. Secondly, the government announced ‘One Nation One Ration card’ scheme under which migrants will be enabled to access Public Distribution System from any Fair Price Shop in the country by March 2021. Thirdly, the government will launch a scheme under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) for migrant labourers/urban poor to provide ease of living at affordable rent .