Due to the lockdown now extended till May 3, the Indian Army in coordination with the Indian Railways will run special trains for Army Personnel to meet the Army's operational demands.
Reports state that over 1000 officers, junior commissioned officers or JCOs and persons belonging to other ranks (PBOR) are likely to travel in these trains that are scheduled to start from Bengaluru to reach their units or formations.
Govt suspends train operations
As the government has suspended all train operations to prevent movement of people, special permission had to be acquired and three ministries, Defence, Home, and Railways, together planned the move.
According to sources, several officers and PBORs train at Bengaluru, Secundrabad, Belgaum and elsewhere. This is the time when many of them are supposed to proceed to their units and formations after courses and training but due to the lockdown, this was not possible. It is important for this personnel to join their respective stations so that the Army's operational capacity doesn't suffer.
Government sources have confirmed that for now two routes have been identified for two special trains. These trains will be non-AC. One train will reach Jammu via Ambala and the other will reach Guwahati via Howrah. Both the trains will start from Bengaluru on April 17 and 18.
Defence sources mentioned that the trains are being arranged to "meet the operational requirements of Northern and Eastern borders".
Sources added that these trains will enable decongestion of category A and B training establishments at Bangalore, Belgaum, Secundrabad and Gopalpur as well as assist in operational preparedness of active formations deployed in the borders.
They added that, "Only personnel due to rejoin units deployed in northern and eastern borders and have undergone mandatory quarantine period or have been found medically fit will be accommodated."
These trains will halt at multiple places en route and they will have a pantry car each. Both Railways as well as the Army will work to santise the coaches. A coach will not hold 72 people at once as social distancing will be maintained.
While the North India route may be through Bela, Agra, Delhi, Ambala and Jammu Tawi the Northeast route may be through Vijaywada, Howrah and Katihar. Defence sources said the routes were being finalized.
The army is in further coordination with the Ministry of Railways and is in progress for planning additional trains in the coming weeks.