Coronavirus outbreak: The silent heroes of the railway squad

Updated: Apr 12, 2020, 07:16 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Be it making masks at home, to crowd sourcing food and essential items, or making sure the goods trains run flawlessly, railway workers are quietly working behind the scenes to help

(From left) Khushroo Poacha (not in pic) has been giving essential supplies to thousands; VM Rajan managed to run 311 goods trains by judiciously arranging the staff available at his command to cater to strategic movement of essential commodities;  the members of Vishal Kalge’s family have been making masks at home
(From left) Khushroo Poacha (not in pic) has been giving essential supplies to thousands; VM Rajan managed to run 311 goods trains by judiciously arranging the staff available at his command to cater to strategic movement of essential commodities; the members of Vishal Kalge’s family have been making masks at home

We may be under lockdown, but there are many who are working tirelessly. The Central Railways has been continuing freight and parcel traffic to maintain the supply of essential commodities in various parts of the country during this period. The trains are on the move from the ports and markets around Mumbai and other divisions of Central Railway like Mumbai, Bhusaval, Nagpur, Solapur and Pune, to various parts of the country in the times of crisis. Railway staff at various good sheds, stations and control offices, who are working round the clock, have made it possible to load 37,785 wagons of essential commodities in 744 rakes.

"Many staffers have been working silently during this difficult time. Yard masters, train drivers, track maintainers and controllers, have been at the task to ensure smooth movement of freight and parcel traffic. Safety equipment is provided to the track maintainers, and divisional engineers have been counselling track gangmen about social distancing. Section engineers are ensuring distribution of mask, sanitisers, soap and hand gloves to every track maintainer on duty," Central Railway's chief public relations officer Shivaji Sutar said.

Besides keeping up the tempo of work, some have gone the extra mile.

Good Samaritan Number 1
Khushroo Poacha, a superintendent with the Central Railway's Commercial Department in Nagpur, received a pat on the back from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for being a helping hand for many. Nagpur-based Poacha has been a known name for his social work and networking. He has been crowdsourcing a kitchen for the needy since 2014, and during the Coronavirus crisis, he has single-handedly managed to collect food and aid materials worth more than R40 lakh, which has benefitted over 6,000 families. He has also been supplying rice to more than 60,000 poor people.

"I was stunned when I received a call from the chief minister. I just kept saying thank you. Sir said he did not understand how I managed to garner so much contribution without having an NGO. He said if I required any help from the Maharashtra government, he shall facilitate it," an elated Poacha said.

His secret is that he has built a strong network of well-wishers and most of his work is crowdsourced. His social commitment first started sometime in 1999 when he started what is now a successful venture called, which has more than 50,000 registered donors today. Around 2014, at a time when his mother was hospitalised for brain surgery, he noticed the plight of family members outside the hospital and out of sheer passion to help them out, he started a crowdsourced kitchen to give free home-cooked meals to families of outstation patients admitted to city hospitals, calling it Seva Kitchen. This Monday, he dispatched a truckload of dry food packets which will provide succour to nearly 550 farmers' widows and their families for the next 10 days. He has been offering help requests through a series of WhatsApp groups, and his websites. "Requests go through and donors make their contributions, which are routed to my supplier from where I pick up the stuff required. There is no monetary exchange at any stage," he explained.

Good Samaritan Number 2
The food and essential supply chain has been kept alive by Central Railway by closely monitored freight movement. VM Rajan, Chief Yard Master of Kalyan Goods Yard, is one such silent warrior who has played an important role in running goods trains during the lockdown. He has single-handedly managed to run 311 goods trains by judiciously arranging goods drivers, guards and other staff available at his command to cater strategic movement of essential commodities.

"It is a tough task. It requires high level coordination to gather the required set of staff to run trains. One single train requires a locomotive pilot, an assistant loco pilot, a guard and staff at various levels to co-ordinate the train movement from one end of the country to other. He has managed all this, for not one, but 311 trains, which is a huge number," Sutar remarked. "These are crucial times and we need to do whatever is possible to keep these essential trains running, as we have been doing, to keep the supply chain alive. With no other mode of transportation, these trains are the lifeline in the real sense," Rajan said.

Good Samaritan Number 3
Vishal Kalge, a train guard on duty from Miraj division of Central Railway, realised the shortage of masks and found out a way to make them available for all his colleagues and till date, has supplied 3,500 masks.

"When the crisis started, I realised the importance of masks and went to buy them at the local shop. But I found them to be expensive. This is when I realised that we had to do something ourselves. I turned to my family and they promptly agreed to be involved.

We noted the right way to make them, bought the right kind of cloth from the shop and started making masks after sanitising ourselves. My mother, wife and children promptly agreed to pitch in," said Kalge. He has spent about R51,000.

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