April 24, 2021 5:28:22 am
The Railways, which has continued to run passenger and freight trains amid the pandemic, is facing a staff crunch with the coronavirus spreading fast through its ranks — more than 93,000 employees have tested positive over the last few weeks.
The national transporter is rationalising its manpower to ensure its operations are not affected, particularly at a time when migrants are rushing home and it is expected to run dedicated oxygen-carrying trains, according to sources.
“Roughly 93,000 railway employees are affected by Covid (presently). Not all require hospitalisation… We have lost lives as well. We are in close touch with our frontline workers which include drivers, guards, maintainers, station masters and TTEs and motivating them. We have already identified 72 hospitals of Indian Railways where our Covid-positive employees and their beneficiaries are being treated. More than 5,000 beds have been earmarked for these people,” Railway Board Chairman and CEO Suneet Sharma said.
While Railways has around 12 lakh employees, sources said, most of those infected are frontline workers connected with daily operations of passenger and freight trains. “The figures you see are of those who have reported to railway hospitals officially. The real numbers may be higher… Railways is under stress due to so many infections,” a senior official said.
Sources said the Railways is currently running around 17,000 trains (passenger, suburban and freight included) daily, requiring the services of around three lakh employees. Given the summer rush, the railways is also running many special trains on specific routes. “Our freight movement is higher than last year. Almost 80 per cent passenger trains are running. Close to 90 per cent suburban trains are in operation,” Sharma said.
Elaborating on how the Railways is managing operations with depleted manpower, Sharma said, “We have made some adjustments. As the speed of our freight trains has increased, we have rationalised our crew as it can now go longer distance… We are focussing our manpower in such corridors where we have greater movement. We will not let this impact our operations.”
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