The challenge to resume train travel | HT Editorial – Editorials
Almost two months after being forced to stop due to coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Indian Railways has resumed passenger train operations, certainly on a limited scale. Trains connecting major cities across the country were operational as of Tuesday in a move to start India’s economic engine. Several chief ministers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the dangers of this move as India crosses a grim total of 70,000 positive cases and more than 2,200 deaths. The prime minister acknowledged the concerns, said rail services will be limited and ruled out a full resumption.
Stopping train services was a precaution at a time when India had around 500 cases. Now, despite imposing one of the strictest blockades, India’s battle against Covid-19 is only escalating. With the need to resuscitate the economy, on the one hand, and protect the health of its citizens, on the other hand, India does not have many options. This newspaper has constantly advocated a gradual blockade to revive the economy, with strict health protocols. The resumption of train services (with the exception of migrant workers who were stranded) has risks. The government has issued guidelines to ensure the safety of travelers. But there are real challenges in implementation. How do people get to the train station? How can trains, many of which have been booked at full capacity, guarantee social distancing? What protocols exist for possibly asymptomatic travelers?
Train travel can possibly lead to the spread of the disease, even in rural areas, and increase the health burden on states. Railways must do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen.