Coronavirus (COVID-19): Giving shape to a new model of delivery of goods across India amid the lockdown, a mechanism is connecting district magistrates, local railway officers and users to ensure doorstep delivery of medicines, medical equipment and all items of need on special trains running 24×7.
The mechanism SETU, which was launched last week, has a round-the-clock all-India helpline number – 8448848477 and it has so far connected 100-plus destinations after fielding over 1000 calls. So much is the number of calls that officials manning it have now opened a dedicated helpline for items related to pharma sector alone: 8888261234.
Looking at the response, a website is being launched for SETU that will field all queries, officials said.
There are now talks with the Department of Post so that the reach of India Post can be coupled with that of Indian Railways for seamless doorstep deliveries across India. Railways at zonal levels are tying up with private parcel transporters for door to door service.
Among the items being transported are medicines from pharmaceutical companies to district hospitals and even to patients who book such consignment—like life-saving medicines etc– and essential items from wholesalers to retailers, books, perishables from farmers and just about everything for which there is a demand. Last week the platform helped transport camel milk and human blood on specific requests following requests on social media and the helpline.
On Tuesday, the Asian Institute of Transport Development announced an award of Rs 50,000 to the 21 trainee officers who developed and are managing SETU. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport has also endorsed this new business model.
With some areas less affected by the COVID-19 outbreak witnessing some relaxations in restrictions after April 20 as many other areas continue to remain in lockdown, officials said that coordination with district-level officers and their counterparts in nearest railheads would be vital to keep this supply chain working.
Through its 68 divisional commercial managers and divisional operations managers, Railways is also facilitating the passes and permits for trucks used to deliver the items from stations to their destinations.
As many as 204 “COVID-19 Parcel Special” trains are operating in about 63 routes across the country at present. “On Tuesday, we supplied 60 kg of medicine from Prayagraj to Banda after the local authorities called the helpline and indicated the requirement,” said Sanchit Tyagi, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager of Prayagraj division in Uttar Pradesh.
The helpline is currently being managed from Indian Railway Traffic Service officers’ training institute in Udaipur and is being overseen by an officer in Tundla, Uttar Pradesh. The helpline managers have instant fare calculators so that the moment a query comes, the fare can be instantly conveyed, doing away with the complicated process of the customer calculating the figure as per distance, taxes etc.
“The mechanism is also connecting us with different mandi associations for agriculture produce and the pharmaceutical sector for PPEs, masks etc,” said Sanjay Kumar, Assistant Traffic Manager,Tundla. Last month, the Railway Board led by minister Piyush Goyal had discussed in a meeting that now that the road sector was unable to carry commodities like it used to, it was an opportunity for the special parcel trains to carry any commodity in any
quantity desired and keep the supply chain running. During the lockdown period, Railways parcel trains has transported 1150 tons of medicines and medical items.