Over 4 Lakh Railway Staff Vaccinated So Far; 10,300 MT Oxygen Delivered To Nation

by Arun Kumar Das - May 18, 2021 10:25 AM +05:30 IST
Over 4 Lakh Railway Staff Vaccinated So Far; 10,300 MT Oxygen Delivered To NationA railway employee being vaccinated in Delhi.
  • As of now, almost 2,000 rail employees have lost their lives to coronavirus and around 1,000 are infected daily.

Amid the virulent second wave, Indian Railways, which is witnessing about 1,000 coronavirus cases among employees daily on an average, has so far vaccinated around 4.32 lakh workers while efforts are on to immunise the remaining staff.

The national transporter, with over 12 lakh staff strength, is currently engaged in transporting liquid medical oxygen on a war footing, besides carrying essential goods and passengers to various destinations across the nation.

“The Railways has so far vaccinated 4.32 lakh employees. That is quite a fair number. We are in touch with State governments to vaccinate the balance staff. The first stage was 45 years and above and also the frontline workers like medical staff and Railway Protection Force. They have been vaccinated,” Railway Board Chairman and CEO Suneet Sharma said here in a virtual presser.

Sharma's remarks came days after the government wrote to states instructing them to use their quota of free vaccines only for those designated as frontline workers by the government or those above the age of 45 years.

The government's list of frontline workers does not include railway staffers, something that the railway unions have been complaining about for a long time.

As of now, almost 2,000 rail employees have lost their lives to coronavirus and around 1,000 are infected daily.

The All India Station Masters’ Association has given the ultimatum of June 30 to the government to vaccinate them and other front line railway employees involved in train operations.

In a letter to the Union health secretary, it has said if the government fails to do so, then non-vaccinated staff would have no option but to abstain from duty.

“In the event of any misfortune to the Indian Railways moving the essential commodities, your letter will have strong evidence for the non-vaccinated employees abstaining from duty to save their precious lives,” the association has written to Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

Currently, the definition of frontline workers includes personnel from state and central police organisations, armed forces, home guards, prison staff, disaster management volunteers, civil defence organisations, municipal workers and revenue officials engaged in surveillance and containment activities.

A vaccination drive for railway employees at New Delhi railway station.
A vaccination drive for railway employees at New Delhi railway station.

Railways maintains that now, the emphasis is on those aged between 18 to 45 years. “We are in touch with the States, firstly, to finish the 45 years and above group of people, with now, not many being left. Secondly, to quickly cover our 18-45 age group in different States. Railways carries essential commodities. We are running Oxygen Expresses and are also meeting the coaching requirements of passengers. We have been insisting on State governments to quickly take action in inoculating our people so they can discharge their public functions safely,” the Chairman said.

He further said more than 100 vaccination centres are there in the railways.

"We have increased our beds. Till last year, we had 2,539 Covid beds, but now there are 6,972 beds. We earlier had 253 isolation beds, but now, we have 573. We have four oxygen plants and 50 others have been sanctioned by divisions and zones. Earlier, we had 63 ventilators which have been increased to 296. We have added oxygen concentrators and medicines,” he said.

On Cyclone Tauktae, Sharma said the Railways was taking all measures to ensure minimal time disruption of operations and earliest resumption wherever temporary suspension occurs due to safety reasons.

“Zonal and Divisional controls are monitoring the situation and are constantly in touch with all stations in Southern Railway, South Western Railway, Konkan Railway, Central Railway and Western Railway. Divisions and Zones are in constant touch with State governments to monitor and plan for any contingency,” he said.

Besides, all vulnerable areas and important bridges are being constantly monitored by the engineering wings and relief material has been kept at convenient locations for quick response.

The Railways is in regular touch with State Met departments and is taking action accordingly.

The Safety Department has also reiterated Disaster Management guidelines to prevent loss of life and damage to property. Efforts are on to ensure minimal time disruption of any Railway Operations and earliest resumption wherever temporary suspension occurs due to safety reasons.

Sharma said the emergency response such as Accident Relief Trains, Medical Relief Vans and Tower Wagons have been put on high alert and readiness for quick turnout in any contingency.

Continuing with the transportation of emergency medical aid, the Railways has so far delivered about 10,300 tonnes of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) in more than 600 tankers to States.

Despite the upcoming cyclone, Railways ran two Oxygen Expresses early morning on Monday from Gujarat to beat high winds and deliver 150 MT of oxygen to the nation.

Oxygen Express has covered 13 states till now, said Sharma. The Railways is picking up oxygen from places like Hapa and Mundra in the West and Rourkela, Durgapur, Tatanagar, and Angul in the East and then delivering it to States.

Till now, 521 tonnes of oxygen had been offloaded in Maharashtra, nearly 2,652 tonnes in Uttar Pradesh, 431 tonnes in Madhya Pradesh, 1,290 tonnes in Haryana, 564 tonnes in Telangana, 40 tonnes in Rajasthan, 361 tonnes in Karnataka, 200 tonnes in Uttarakhand, 231 tonnes in Tamil Nadu, 40 tonnes in Punjab, 118 tonnes in Kerala and nearly 3,734 tonnes in Delhi.

Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at akdas2005@gmail.com.

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