Row over RPF staff testing COVID-19 positive

Row over RPF staff testing coronavirus positive

Representative image/Reuters Photo

Clarifying its stand on allegations made by Trinamool Congress over nine Railway Protection Force ( RPF) personnel testing positive for Covid-19, the national transporter on Friday said that its staff travelled in parcel train during lockdown as a part of their official duty.

According to railway officials, a  28-member RPF contingent from the Kharagpur division of the South Eastern Railway (SER), left for Anand Vihar on March 19 to collect arms and ammunition and reached the destination next day.

The RPF staff had to stay back at  RPF/RPSF barracks in Dayabasti, Delhi due to nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the evening of March 24.

After parcel trains started operating from March 31, it was decided to send these staff to West Bengal in these train in the view of the scarcity of ammunition in the SER. It is pertinent to note that duty movement of armed forces was exempted from the restrictions imposed during the lockdown. RPF contingent collected the arms and ammunition on April 12 and left Delhi for Howrah by a special parcel train in the early morning of April 13, said a railway official. 

The RPF contingent reached Howrah at about 8.40 am on April 14 and left for Kharagpur in an RPF bus, it said.

"Staff posted at en-route stations deboarded from the bus during the road journey. They were quarantined in the respective barracks. Rest of the staff with ammunition was taken to Kharagpur. The bus arrived at Kharagpur at 13.30 hours of April 14," a statement from the national transporter said.

A constable, who was part of the contingent, boarded another parcel train from Kharagpur and reached Balasore in Odisha on April 14 night.

After a constable, who was part of the contingent, developed coronavirus-like symptoms, his swab was tested at a government facility in West Bengal on Thursday and the results were positive. He was quarantined.

The railway also said all the 28 RPF personnel have already been tested and no one is left for testing. Those tested positive have been isolated. It also clarified that RPF personnel, while undertaking the journey, did not come in contact with the public. There has not been any violation of the guidelines issued for the management of Covid-19 by the central government or any state government," the statement from the railways said.

The Indian Railways set up a committee to find out how members of the RPF contingent got infected with the virus.

Expressing concern,  Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Derek O'Brien tweeted, "Why were positive patients traveling during #lockdown? WHO SENT THEM ? Screening? How many people did they met (sic)?"