VISAKHAPATNAM: Spending nearly Rs 4 crore in Andhra Pradesh, Railways had equipped 180 of its train bogies with 1,440 Covid-19 isolation beds. They had been stationed them at Visakhapatnam, Tirupati, and Vijayawada railway stations in April last year to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic.
Deccan Chronicle decided to check the status of these coaches and services they had rendered to Covid-19 patients in the past 14 months. Railway sources disclosed that there have been no takers for the bogie beds. “It is not the fault of Railways. If no patient has used them, it is because state government did not allot these beds to Covid-19 patients," a source here said.
There are eight isolation beds in each coach, which Railways made ready at a cost of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh per bogie. Separate beds, fans, sanitation, masks, and food had been part of the service. 60 such coaches had been stationed at Vizag Railway Station, with Tirupati and Vijayawada getting the rest.
"We had been instructed to urgently ready quarantine centres using railway coaches. When Coronavirus peaked during the first wave, we had been directed to equip the isolation beds with oxygen facilities. We are still ready to offer these beds to patients if anyone approaches us through proper channels," said a senior railway official at Waltair division of East Coast Railway, who preferred anonymity.
Another railway official from Vijayawada remarked, "The money government spent on creating these facilities has so far been a waste. It is better to withdraw the service if it is of no use."
When there had been complete lockdown during first wave, these coaches had been stationed on railway station platforms. Now, they have been shifted to coach depots of their respective railway stations.
Nationwide, Indian Railways had readied nearly 4,000 coaches with around 32,000 beds as isolation wards. "Less than 10 percent of beds might have been used across the country, as per our knowledge," said a railway official from Tirupati.
When contacted, Visakhapatnam district medical and health officer said, "The state government had readied sufficient number of Covid-19 care and isolation centres at every possible location. We had no occasion to approach the railways in both first and second waves," he maintained...