New Delhi, Mar 17 (PTI) Over 64 lakh migrant labourers reached home safely by Shramik trains during the COVID-19 pandemic, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday in his reply over a discussion on the railways.
He said free meals and packaged drinking water were provided on the Shramik trains.
'More than 64 lakh migrant labourers reached home safely,' Goyal said.
He said 4,600 Shramik trains were run on 43 routes during the pandemic to ferry migrant labourers.
'Every state was given the number of trains they demanded. Even then, there were attempts to politicise it. We immediately resolved it. We asked them how many trains you want and we gave them those trains in 12-14 hours. It is a different issue that they were unable to use those because that much was not needed,' the minister said.
He said trains were converted into isolation wards on a suggestion from the prime minister to provide an option for isolating the COVID-infected patients.
Goyal said none of the railway employees refused to come to work during the crisis, even when there was no awareness about the COVID-19 virus.
Communist Party of India (CPI) member Binoy Viswam sought a reply from the railway minister on the government's plans to sell the shares of the Indian Railways and on the future of the organisation.
He said migrant labourers were filled in the Shramik trains like refugees and 97 people died on those trains.
Viswam also alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has surrendered the railways to foreign funds in the name of foreign direct investment.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) member Fauzia Khan said Marathwada has been left deprived and ignored with a budget allocation of Rs 175 crore for electrification. She sought a meeting of the MPs hailing from Marathwada with the railway minister to share the views of the region.
BJP member BL Verma demanded a direct train from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi via Lucknow and Rakesh Sinha sought a direct train from the Lakhminia station in Bihar to Delhi in the name of former Union minister George Fernandes.
BJP member Hardwar Dubey sought a special goods train to carry shoes and Petha sweet from Agra. BJP's Samir Oraon sought the completion of the rail route between Ranchi and Chhattisgarh via Lohardaga, Jashpur and Korba. PTI PRS RC