Within days of a road accident that killed seven migrant workers travelling from Odisha's Ganjam to cloth mills in Gujarat, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has urged Railways Minister Piyush Goyal urging him to restart Special Shramik trains from his home state so people can "safely return to work" and "help restart the economy".
In his letter to Mr Goyal, the Petroleum Minister - who is an MP from Odisha - said he was making the representation on behalf of Ganjam's migrant workers seeking to return to the industrial states of Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
"There was a mass exodus of migrant workers from states like Gujarat, Karnataka, and Maharashtra to Odisha in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown... These workers have highlighted their plights due to the unavailability of livelihood options and difficulty in travelling back to their workplace for re-joining work. Even though some employers are willing to offer bus transport service from Odisha, a long and arduous journey via road is neither feasible nor safe for such long distances due to prevailing monsoon conditions," Mr Pradhan wrote.
He further emphasised that there is a need to resume rail services - which continue to remain suspended since before the nationwide coronavirus lockdown started on March 22 - for migrant workers "keeping in mind the need to re-ignite our economy".
"I request your personal intervention for restarting of Shramik Special Trains from Odisha to states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra at the earliest," the Petroleum Minister said in his letter.
The request comes even as the Railways plans to start, from September 12, 80 new trains in the reverse direction of the Shramik Special trains to help migrants return to work.
The Shramik Special trains were started to facilitate return of migrant workers, left jobless amid the coronavirus lockdown, to their home states after lakhs of them started walking back because all public transportation services stood suspended.
The exodus had evoked worry from experts about the effect it would have on the economy, which has recorded its sharpest nosedive on record at minus 23.9 per cent.