Months after Indian Railways announced that hundreds of rail coaches have been converted to coronavirus isolation shelters to reduce the burden on the hospitals, states have finally started availing the facility.
While 204 coaches have already been deployed for use by 4 states, Indian Railways is ready to deliver nearly 5000 coaches at a short notice.
Following the concern over sharp spike in cases in Delhi, railways has already deployed 54 coaches for the national capital. To improve its preparedness, UP has deployed maximum 70 coaches. Telangana, meanwhile, has made 60 operational.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Saturday held a meeting with the ministers for home, health and top officials to take stock of state and district-level availability of beds for coronavirus cases.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has stepped in to take charge of the situation in Delhi with two back-to-back meetings. After the meetings, it was decided that Delhi will deploy 500 rail coaches to boost the number of beds available.
Railways sources said that 54 rail coaches have already been deployed at the Shakur Basti railway station and more will be added soon. It may be noted that Indian Railways will bear the expense for this conversion.
If 5,000 coaches are deployed, railways would be spending around Rs 35 crore for converting 5000 coaches. The cost of converting each coach works out to Rs 67,000.
A senior railways official said, “50 % of the cost is labour which railways currently has surplus. Rest of the material can be re-used.”
Railways had offered to convert 5,000 coaches way back at the start of the first lockdown. It had empowered zonal heads of railways to release converted coaches to state govt’s in case they were requisitioned. But for almost 90 days none of the states came forward.
Railways had to divert some of these converted coaches for moving the migrants across the country. However, now the need for additional beds is rising with a sharp spike in the number of cases and the coaches will again be converted to boost bed availability across several states in the country.