AGENCIES, Hyderabad/New Delhi: Nearly five weeks after a sudden nationwide lockdown left lakhs of people stranded, in many cases without food, shelter or income, the Centre on Friday said it will run special trains to take migrant labourers, students, pilgrims or tourists back home amid the COVID-19 crisis.
According to the Indian Railways, Shramik Special trains will be run to take stranded people home and passengers will only be allowed on board once they are found to be asymptomatic upon screening. Physical distancing measures will be enforced on the trains.
The six trains announced so far will run from Lingampalli (Telangana) to Hatia (Jharkhand), Aluva (Kerala) to Bhubaneswar (Odisha), Nashik (Maharashtra) to Lucknow (UP), Nashik to Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan) to Patna (Bihar) and Kota (Rajasthan) to Hatia (Jharkhand).
The states from where the people will be picked up will have to send people to the stations in batches and provide meals and drinking water to the passengers. Text messages from district magistrates will be considered tickets, officials said, adding forwarded messages will not be allowed.
The first of the trains to transport migrants stranded by the lockdown left Telangana for Jharkhand at around 4:30 this morning, carrying 1,200 people from Lingampally in the southern state to Jharkhand’s Hatia district.
The 24-coach train, which usually seats 72 people in a compartment, contained only 54 people in each to follow physical distancing guidelines. All passengers were also screened for symptoms before being allowed to board.
Following the Centre’s order, several states, including Punjab, Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and some southern states, asked for trains to return the migrants, citing distance and the logistics of bus travel. In its order the Centre had said people should go by road and states should make transportation arrangements.
Lakhs of migrant workers and others had been left stranded in states far from their home after the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 25. As economic activity came to a sudden stop during the lockdown, thousands were left without jobs, money or shelter and, with interstate transport shut, had no choice but to walk hundreds, often thousands, of kilometres home, triggering a humanitarian crisis.