Day before railways resumes services in India, states tell PM Modi to cease train, flight travel

PM Modi's virtual meeting with chief ministers on Monday. Photo: DNA India. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, May 11, 2020, India Today. Several states have expressed their reservations about the resumption of passengers trains and flights amid the coronavirus lockdown, India Today reported.

A day before Indian Railways will partially resume train services, many chief ministers opposed the move in a videoconference with PM Modi.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday chaired a fresh round of consultation with chief ministers on ways to strengthen the Covid-19 containment strategy and stepping up of economic activities in a calibrated manner as the 54-day nationwide lockdown nears an end.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao said that since metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai are all Red Zones and the worst-hit in the country, trains from these cities might further spread Covid-19 and cause a spike in the number of cases.

“There are a large number of coronavirus cases in these cities. It is difficult to quarantine passengers on arranging in trains also testing everyone is not possible So don’t run passenger trains right now.

“Nobody knows who is going from where to where. It is not possible to conduct tests on everyone. It is also difficult to put all those who travelled by trains under quarantine. Hence, passengers trains should not be allowed to ply, he said.

Many state governments including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Assam said that train and flight services should not be resumed till the end of May.

“We know from media that regular train service to Chennai (from Delhi) and from Chennai will commence from May 12. As the positive cases in Chennai are showing an increasing trend, don’t permit train services up to May 31, in my state,” Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami told PM Modi.

Others like Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Punjab said such decisions should be taken in consultation with state authorities.

Kerala, too, said that states should be given the freedom to permit public transport, subject to restrictions based on the conditions of each state.

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lift curbs on inter-state public transport partially.

Meanwhile, several states including Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana and Punjab demanded that the lockdown be extended further.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked PM Modi to show “specific and concrete direction” on the ongoing lockdown.

“Covid-19 cases are expected to peak in May, it may peak in June or July also. I’ve read Wuhan is witnessing the second wave of cases and even the WHO has warned about this. So, I suggest that any action on lockdown must be taken cautiously,” Thackeray said.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the Centre of “discriminating against the state for political mileage”.

Questioning the Modi government, she said, “When Government of India has opened almost everything including the opening of land borders, starting trains and opening airports, then what is the point in continuing with further lockdown?”

Nearly two months after all regular passenger services were suspended by the Railways over the coronavirus crisis, as many as 15 trains are to be operated by the Railways from Tuesday on the Rajdhani route from Delhi to all the major cities in the country.

Only asymptomatic passengers with confirmed e-tickets will be allowed in these trains and they will have to report at the station at least 90 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure.

India will have to devise and implement a “balanced strategy” to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, and the biggest challenge for the country will be to ensure that the infection does not spread to villages, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told chief ministers on Monday during a video conference, India Today reported.

Appreciating the role played by the states in the fight against the pandemic, Modi said the entire world is of the view that India has been able to successfully protect itself from the pandemic, according to official sources.

The prime minister conveyed to the chief ministers that a “balanced strategy will have to be adopted for the road ahead, and what path and the direction the country” should adopt could be determined on the basis of the suggestions by the states, sources said.

The “problems” have increased wherever the social distancing norms were not followed or there has been laxity in implementation of the lockdown guidelines, Modi told the chief ministers.

It was essential to make best efforts to ensure that people stay where they were during the lockdown, the prime minister said. However, in times like these people wish to go home and therefore, a change in decision had to be made, he added.

Modi said the biggest challenge would be to ensure that the disease does not spread to villages across the country after relaxations provided by the government.

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