Tough times call for collective action to overcome situations. The sudden onslaught of the pandemic virus COVID-19 in India, led to a country wide lockdown from 25th March, 2020, including stoppage of passenger train services all over India. Subsequently, Ministry of Railways came up with a massive plan to run “Shramik Special Trains” to transport migrant workers to their native states and homes. South Central Railway took off the block in right earnest and has been running Shramik special trains to various destinations. Arrangements have been made to specially prepare, pack and supply enough quantity of food to the travelling migrant workers at enroute stations by IRCTC, the catering arm of Indian Railways. The initiative further drew strength with several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other Voluntary bodies coming forward to lend a helping hand to the railways in preparing and distributing food to the traveling migrant workers, in case of trains running out of course or on diverted paths.
One of the most prominent NGO which has rendered all out assistance is the “Jain Samaj Organization” of Vijayawada. Members of the Organization took time each day to respond to the call of railways, by being present well before the departure schedule of Shramik Special Trains to distribute nutritious food packs specially suiting to the food habits of the travelers. On one single day, i.e., 18th May, 2020, when the Organization was informed of movement of a Shramik Special Train from Rayanapadu, Vijayawada to Jalore in Rajasthan, their members were ready with 5000 packs of food comprising of Roti and Curry along with fruits and water bottles to last for the entire journey. This was in addition to the Tamarind Rice and water bottles supplied by the Government of Andhra Pradesh to the passengers. This earned the gratitude of the travelers towards the organization. In another instance, on 18th May, 2020 the “Jain Community” Voluntary Group from Guntakal supplied food and water to around 1000 passengers travelling by the Shramik Special Train from Pune to Tirunelveli at Guntakal railway station.
Yet another organization which enthusiastically responded to serve needy migrant workers travelling by trains, is the “Zariya Foundation”, an NGO from Vijayawada, which is widely respected for its social centric activities. Members of the foundation arranged food for over 1100 passengers travelling by the Shramik Special Train from New Delhi to Tiruchchirapalli, Tamilnadu on 17th May, 2020. The NGO came up with a sumptuous pack of South Indian food comprising of Idly, Vada and Vegetable Biriyani besides fruits and water bottles.
NGOs and Voluntary organizations from Rajahmundry and Warangal pooled their resources to arrange food and water to 2769 passengers traveling by the Shramik Specials from Kozhikode (Calicut) to Katihar and Ghatkesar to Katihar, at Rajahmundry and Warangal railway stations, when the trains got diverted due to the gas leak incident at Visakhapatnam. With the unscheduled movement of the train and requirement running into a few thousands, these set of NGOs at Rajahmundry and Warangal had to undertake the task of supplying food at very short notice.
The commendable service rendered by several NGOs and Voluntary bodies to meet the food requirements of migrant workers travelling by Shramik Special trains didn’t go unnoticed. Shri Gajanan Mallya, General Manager, SCR was effusive in his praise of all the organizations, whose generosity and personal involvement helped the railways a lot in this hour of need. The General Manager also complimented the SCR officials for maintaining close liaison with the NGOs and Voluntary organizations at local levels, which effectively led to results in an emergent situation.