New Delhi: The Indian Railways is contemplating to convert its coaches and cabins in isolation wards in view of the growing number of COVID-19 patients, sources in the ministry said.
The Railways runs 13,523 trains daily, and has now suspended all passenger services till April 14 in view of the country-wide lockdown.
According to sources, the proposal to offer the empty coaches and cabins to be used as isolation wards was discussed in a meeting of Railway Minister Piyush Goyal with Chairman Railway Board V.K Yadav, General Managers of all zones and Divisional Railway Managers over video conferencing on Wednesday.
Had a meeting with GMs and DRMs over Video Conference & took stock of freight trains running to supply essential commodities amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.
Gave appropriate instructions to ensure there is no shortage in the availability of essentials to the citizens. pic.twitter.com/MA6gEDmeLw
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) March 25, 2020
The idea was discussed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the cabinet meet on Wednesday nudged all the ministers to think out of the box to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Yadav said railway coaches and cabins can be converted into the makeshift hospital on wheels equipped with consultation rooms, medical store, ICU and pantry.
These coaches can be sent to those parts of the country which has seen rapid rise of the coronavirus cases.
As per the WHO estimates, India has only 0.7 beds per 1,000 people. While it has targeted to increase this to two beds, WHO mandates for at least 3 beds per 1,000 people in the country.
The Indian Railways on Wednesday announced to extend the suspension of all passenger services till April 14, in the wake of a 21- day lockdown across the count declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, freight movement, will continue to carry essential commodities across the county.
Indian Railways is dedicated to ensure supply of essential commodities to the people of this country.
Loading of milk powder, cheese, biscuits from Palanpur station of Ahmedabad Division. pic.twitter.com/n4IJIxnWY8
— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) March 26, 2020
Earlier, the Railways on Sunday had announced the suspension of all its passenger services from March 22 midnight to March 31 midnight in the wake of novel coronavirus pandemic to break the chain of transmission of the deadly disease.
Meanwhile, the Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) appealed to the people not to cancel their e-tickets on their own in case of trains being cancelled by the national transporter due to nation-wide lockdown to help curb the spread of novel coronavirus pandemic.
Clearing the doubts of the railway passengers, IRCTC spokesperson Siddharth Singh said, "Doubts have been raised regarding cancellation of e-tickets subsequent to the halting of railway passenger trains.
"It may be submitted that for trains cancelled by the railways in its complete run, refund on e-tickets is full and automatic. In this case, no cancellation exercise is required to be done on the part of the user," he said.
The IRCTC official said that if user cancels his e-ticket in situations of train cancellations, there are chances he may get "less refund". "Hence passengers are advised not to cancel e-tickets on their own for those trains which have been cancelled by the railways," he said.
He also said that the refund amount will be credited to the user account used for booking e-tickets automatically and no charges will be deducted by the railways in case of train cancellation.