While the Railways had identified 20,000 coaches as its overall capacity, it has issued orders to convert 5,000 non-AC coaches into isolation units. By Monday, it had already converted around 2,500 coaches into isolation units.
For the country’s Railway system, described with the beaten-to-death cliché “Lifeline of India”, shutting itself down indefinitely and directing its vast machinery to keep only the essentials running required just a flipping back of a few pages.
The 'National Preparedness Survey on COVID-19' says in its prelude to one of the questions that the government’s aim was to “evade further community transmission” and chalk out a strategy in case community transmission takes place.
During an interaction on Monday with Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, exporters said if India does not begin shipments at this juncture, its export market will be taken over by Chinese products.
Based on the kind of scale indicated to it, the Railways on Monday sounded out its zonal units that it may need to convert up to 20,000 coaches into isolation units in coming days and issued orders to start with converting 5,000 coaches.
Two of the four toilets have been converted into bathrooms. The middle berth on one side in each cabin has been removed while the lower berth there will act as the patient bed. It is envisaged that each coach will comfortably hold around 10 patients and all the other three berths opposite the patient berth have been removed.
“The men are primarily construction workers returning from Hyderabad to different parts of Rajasthan,” Rajkumar said, adding that police were probing how they had managed to get that far from Hyderabad without being intercepted.