SOP for regulating long-distance train travel Issued by the Department of Revenue and Forest, Disaster Management, Relief and Rehabilitation, Government of Maharashtra on April 18, 2021

18, Apr 2021 | CJP Team

The Government of Maharashtra, for the purpose of regulating the influx of people in Maharashtra, issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) instructing the masses and the Railway authorities to ensure “Covid Appropriate Behaviour”. 

To put it simply, all the passengers are required to wear masks and ensure social distancing throughout their journey (from boarding to alighting the train). They are expected to possess e-tickets for avoiding all forms of physical contact and are expected to arrive at the allotted time for preventing overcrowding at the stations. Travellers hailing from the sensitive regions are prohibited from utilizing the train facilities if they do not possess a confirmed ticket, and only asymptomatic persons shall be allowed to board trains for Maharashtra. Notably, people possessing a negative RT-PCR Test (so undertaken 48 hours before the day of the journey) shall be permitted to board the trains.

Hereafter, all the railway stations are required to arrange thermal scanners at their respective entry/exit points. In case of journeys between regions which have been declared sensitive by the Maharashtra Government to any part of the state, the railways are expected to share the data of the scheduled trains and that of the passengers travelling therein, at 4 hours before such departure, with the local Disaster Management Authority. Railways are also obliged to prepare pamphlets for making passengers understand their duties and liabilities during a journey.

Upon disembarking from a place designated “Sensitive Origin” into any part of Maharashtra, passengers carrying the RT-PCR Test report may be required to undergo a thermal scanning test. As in the case of those not possessing such a report, they may be required to either undergo a RAT Test or an RT-PCR Test. Passengers without symptoms shall be stamped on their hands and be quarantined at home for 15 days – a violation of this mandatory quarantine shall lead to deeming the person liable to pay a fine of Rs. 1,000 and compel the authorities to move him or her to an institutional quarantine centre. The local Disaster Management Authority is also expected to prevent minimum contact of such passengers with the residents of their destination, and measures must be taken, in collaboration with MSRTC/local transport offices for arranging buses, for enabling them to travel safely to their onwards journey.

 A brief view of the aforesaid guidelines reveals that while it suggests complex measures for restricting non-emergency travel, the Maharashtra Government has not made it mandatory to produce RT-PCR Test report/RAT Report for travellers from places other than those designated “Sensitive Origins”. This could have helped check an influx of infected people from other pacers of the country, given the spread of the disease. 

Furthermore, the said SOP could have made institutional quarantine mandatory for those citizens who have failed to procure such a report  in the first place upon alighting at the station, subject to release after their report tests negative. Prima Facie the aforesaid SOP is not bound to serve the requisite purpose because the people can escape its loopholes. It fails to shed light on the status of licensed hawkers and salespersons in the trains amidst such unprecedented times. Likewise, the status of economically backward and homeless citizens who often sleep and practically live in the railway stations remains unclear. 

The SOPs may be read here: 

 

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