Lack of transparency on train schedules adding woes to migrant workers

Tina Edwin New Delhi | Updated on May 12, 2020

Migrants body suggests a common registration portal and facilitation centres with dedicated counters for workers from different states

Migrant workers in Mumbai, desperate to go home, are understood to have paid as much as ₹8,000 per head to travel by private buses to states such as Jharkhand, due to uncertainties about getting a seat on the Shramik Special trains. These workers have sold all their belongings and taken loans to secure a passage home.

The information on the number of Shramik Special trains with their schedules don’t reach all migrants and there is lack of transparency on allotment of seats, say Rajendran Narayanan, assistant professor, Azim Premji University and the member of the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN). The information on these trains is mostly disseminated at the government organised camps for migrant workers. Migrant workers who succeed in getting a seat on the Shramik Specials are also spending over ₹1,200 out of pocket and there is little clarity on who is collecting these amounts. The worker had to also spend a lot of money to get an agent to fill the online forms and on documentation, as the forms were in English, and which was not the language spoken or read by the affected workers.

SWAN, formed by a group of researchers, lawyers, engineers, students, and civil society workers to provide assistance to stranded workers has said that there are many gaps in the standard operating practices (SOPs) issued by the ministry of home affairs on the movement of migrant workers from their place of work to their place of origin.

SWAN and another team, which has set up the portal to track Covid related travel orders from the Union and state governments, have jointly written to Ajay Bhalla, secretary in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs highlighting the gaps in the SOPs issued by the ministry, particularly the orders of April 29 and May 11.

Common registration portal

Seeking to collaborate with the government and enable better coordination across states for all migrants to return to their native place, they have said a common data portal for migrants to register their travel requests was necessary. At present, every state has its own portal and there were compatibility issues, as a result of which information flow between states was not seamless, said Narayanan. “We need a portal which is similar to IRCTC where migrants can register,” he added.

SWAN and team have proposed that the portal could also take data from the existing state-specific mobile apps, and interface with all stakeholders involved in planning and support in the migrant workers’ journey such as the medical staff, police, district authorities of both states and the railways.

In their letter,they have highlighted that the current process of registration was cumbersome as the process was not standardised across states, even the file format in which photographs and other documents were to be uploaded varied.

There were also uncertainties post-registration. For instance, workers registering on the Jharkhand website did not receive a confirmation that their registration was accepted. Most workers complained to SWAN that there was no tracking mechanism to check the status of their application, policies followed for prioritise selection of travellers were not transparent, and that information on the scheduling of trains was not shared widely.

Information dissemination

Migrants network body has suggested that in addition to standardising registration, both online and offline, to the extent possible, it was necessary to create multiple facilitation centres across states at municipal/corporation ward level and that these could be in schools, colleges, marriage halls and other public spaces. It has suggested that each facilitation centre should have separate dedicated counter for registration for different destination states and that announcements are made at the ward level requesting the migrant workers to visit these facilitation centres to register to travel as also get other information such as travel time and time to be spent in quarantine.

The letter has also suggested that special feeder buses and intra-state feeder trains be used to transport people from each ward to the station. Likewise, the home state of the migrant workers too should organise adequate numbers of buses/trains to transport them to their destinations.

Published on May 12, 2020

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