Alert sounded as passengers slip out of airports to board trains


New Delhi, March 21, 2020:

In a bid to avoid the 14-day quarantine, international passengers slipping out of airports would no more find their way to trains to reach home as security at airports and at all major railway stations has been tightened.

A high vigil is being maintained on international and foreign returned Indian passengers boarding trains in metros across the country.

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) and its intelligence branch has intercepted several passengers, who in a bid to avoid the two-week quarantine, slipped out of from various airports and managed to board trains.

Citing a latest example, Director General of RPF, Arun Kumar told IANS that a passenger was intercepted on Assam border who slipped out of Bangalore airport and boarded a train to Sealdah. The passenger was intercepted when he further boarded Kanchanjunga Express from Sealdah to reach Guwahati.

"Another passenger flying from a destination in Europe , managed to board Rajdhani at New Delhi, was finally searched and intercepted in Bhubaneswar by RPF," said Kumar adding, "all the co-passengers travelling with these high risk passengers (who could be COVID-19 positive) have been identified along with the running staff."

In wake of the coronavirus threat, 76,000 RPF personnel have been put on alert as railways continue to be the lifeline of mainstream transport in the country. In each of the 15 battalion headquarters of RPF spread across India, 2,500 quarantined bed facilities have been set up.

Over 100 railway hospitals and its staff, located in various districts have also been alerted. "Thermal scanning and essential procedures have been put in place at all major stations. Measures to reduce crowds at platforms have also been taken. Beside, leave applications of RPF personnel have been cancelled," said Kumar.

Any person, who is supposed to be self quarantined, and ventures to board a train can face an FIR under the Epidemic Diseases Act, to prevent the spread of the dreaded coronavirus.

"An FIR was registered against the passenger who tried to escape from Kolkata (on Kanchanjunga express). We are also taking action against our own officers and staff. A woman officer of the rank of Assistant Personnel Officer (APO) based in South Western Railways, Bangalore has been placed under suspension. The officer tried to hide her son in a Railway guest house. Her son had returned from abroad and was expected to be quarantined for 14 days," said the DG, RPF.

According to him, action was also taken against another railway officer in Agra who tried to withhold information relating to her daughter's travel plans. The daughter had escaped quarantine in Bangalore to reach her parents' place in Agra.

The railways had also restricted entry of visitors to Rail Bhawan, Divisional Headquarters and its other departments nationwide. Trains, platforms and restrooms are also being sanitised at regular intervals to prevent the spread of the disease.