Sunil Kr. Sharma (Special Correspondents)
New Delhi: Indian Railways the largest passenger transportation in the country has been an active participant in the country’s fight against the corona virus. As the lockdown came into effect in India, all passenger train operations were staled from midnight of 22nd March 20, Over 12 thousand mail express, premium and suburban trains stopped plying on the rail network. A situation never encountered in the 167 years of Indian Railways. However the Goods trains continued their run unabated.
Sh. Rajiv Chaudhry, General Manager Northern & North Central Railways shared the information that the Task at Hand given to Northern Railway was to maintain a steady supply chain to feed 80 crore NFSA beneficiaries through continuous evacuation of food grain from the granaries of Punjab and Haryana. The challenge was stiffer on account of demanding working conditions due to the pandemic and consequent lockdown. The availability of wagons, timely dispatch of food grain rakes, arranging staff and keeping them motivated to perform in the tough conditions was an uphill task for the Divisions involved.
As the Lockdown period was further extended, the Government announcement to provide additional 5 kg food grain per person to NFSA beneficiaries. To meet the demand deficient states were permitted to lift 3 months’ stock from FCI on credit. There was more pressure on the Railways to provide for the enhanced evacuation.This resulted in a sudden increase in loading requirement from average 15 to almost 3.6 times more rakes in a day over Northern Railway. An all-time high record of single day loading of 54 rakes was achieved on 22-04-20.
Since freight movement in covered rakes was being discouraged, managing adequate supply of empty rakes from across the country and moving them to Punjab & Haryana for loading was an arduous task. To meet the demand the flow of covered rakes plying inother regions of India were diverted towards North also the maintenance pattern of the wagons were tweaked to increase availability. Meticulous prior planning was being done with Food Corporation of India (FCI) for arranging destinations as per requirement of states. For loading and off-loading a constant coordination for terminal release and labour availability with the local administration and at apex level with MHA was being done by Northern Railway.
To ensure enhanced availability of Public Distribution System (PDS) foodgrains reach the Ration shops all across India in time, NR has moved a total of 2218 rakes carrying about 62.47 lakh tonnes (LT) of Wheat and Rice to 18 deficient states during the period 01.04.20 to 08.06.20 (lockdown months).More than 47.06 LT of Rice and 15.4 LT of Wheat were sent to the receiving states from Punjab and Haryana. This is 206% higher than the loading of food grains done over NR in the same period last year. With this the zonal Railway has achieved the distinction of carrying out almost 50% of the total loading of food grain by Railwaysin the country during the lockdown period.
The beneficiary states are (figure in Lakh Tonne) :Assam – 9.25, Bihar – 12.29, Chhattisgarh – 0.05, Goa- 0.21,Gujarat – 4.03, J&K – 0.94, Jharkhand – 0.42, Karnataka – 9.79, Kerala – 0.24, Maharashtra – 9.78, Nagaland – 0.70, Odisha – 0.24, Rajasthan – 2.64, West Bengal – 2.05, Tamil Nadu – 1.15, Telangana – 0.05, UP – 8.60 and Uttarakhand – 0.05.
The General Manager also added that Special long distance goods and time tabled Parcel Cargo express trains will continue to run from different regions of the North India to maintain the supply of food grains, items of daily use, essential medicines and equipment all across India reaching out to the most remote places.