Workers clean a train at the railway yard in New Delhi. (Express Photo/File)
Amid a near nationwide lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian Railways Tuesday said it would ensure automatic refund of confirmed tickets, and offered to use its production units for manufacturing essential items for treatment of COVID-19 patients, among other announcements.
As coronavirus cases crossed 500 Tuesday, stringent measures have been put in place to enforce social distancing. Barring essential requirements, road, rail, and air traffic stands suspended till March 31 even as states impose lockdown and curfews in some areas.
Following its extraordinary decision to suspend all passenger trains till the end of the month, the Railways today announced key decisions.
Refund automatic, don't cancel confirmed tickets
Passengers, whose trains have been cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus fear, need not cancel their confirmed tickets booked online. The Railways Tuesday guaranteed full refund automatically. Usually, the passengers could avail the full refund within three days from the date of journey. In an earlier notification, the railways had extended to three months the time to cancel counter tickets till June 21.
The railway subsidiary, IRCTC, said in a statement that doubts have been raised regarding cancellation of e-tickets subsequent to the halting of railway passenger trains. "No cancellation required on the part of user. If user cancels his ticket, there are chances he may get less refund. Hence, passengers are advised not to cancel e- tickets on their own for those trains which have been cancelled by railways," it said.
"Refund amount will be credited to the user account used for booking of e-tickets automatically. No charges are deducted by the railways in case of train cancellation," the statement added.
Railways to use its production units to manufacture essential items for treatment of COVID patients
In order to contribute in the fight against coronavirus and increased number of confirmed cases in the country, the Railways Board has issued instructions to all its production units to access feasibility of manufacturing items like simple hospital beds, medical trolleys for hospitals and quarantine facilities, and IV stands.
"Railway Board has issued necessary instructions to the general managers of these production units to explore the feasibility of manufacture of items like simple hospital beds (without mattress), medical trolleys for hospitals and quarantine facilities, IV stands, stretchers, hospital footsteps, hospital bedside lockers, washbasins with stands, ventilators, PPEs like masks, sanitisers, water tanks etc.
"Railway Board has entrusted the tasks to the general managers to explore the feasibility in consultation with chief medical officer of the zone and manufacture it in large quantities," the order stated.
Ensuring uninterrupted supply of essential commodities: Railways
Even as all passenger trains have been suspended till March 31 as part of a lockdown to enforce social distancing and break the spread of coronavirus, the Railways said that it was ensuring uninterrupted supply of essential commodities across the country through freight trains.
On March 23, a total of 474 rakes were loaded for essential commodities like food grains, salt, edible oil, sugar, milk, fruits and vegetables, onion, coal and petroleum products. During the day, a total of 891 rakes were loaded by the Indian Railways, which also includes other important commodities like 121 rakes of iron ore, 48 rakes of steel, 25 rakes of cement, 28 rakes of fertiliser, 106 rakes of container and others.
"Currently, the railways is operating only freight trains across the country. The railways is making all efforts to ensure availability of essential commodities through its uninterrupted freight services.
"During the situation of lockdown in various states, Indian Railways staff deployed at various good sheds, stations and control offices is working on 24/7 basis to ensure that the supply of essential items for the nation does not gets affected," the ministry said.
Passenger trains suspended; Railways to release full salary to construction workers
Lakhs of construction workers, who will not be working due to a suspension of passenger trains till March 31, will receive their full salaries for the month, the Railways announced.
In an order issued on Tuesday, the railways has said that due to prevailing coronavirus situation in India and the stoppage of trains, several contractual staff engaged in on-board housekeeping service, sanitation, pantry car and commercial activities have been stranded and have to compulsorily stay at other places, while others have to be in readiness to attend the duties at a short notice.
"In order to reduce the hardship being faced by these workers, (Railway) Board has decided to treat the employees of private establishments (including temporary, contractual, outsourced) engaged in providing services in trains, stations and offices, directly affected with suspension of services and lockdown situations, as on duty and be paid accordingly till the expiry of suspension of services/lockdown or as advised by the central government in this regard," according to an order. "Maximum payment which may be made shall be limited to 70 per cent of the contract value for contracts awarded on lump sum basis," the order stated.
(Inputs from PTI)