No more Shramik Specials, remaining migrants may take buses back home
The Delhi government on Wednesday said it was unlikely to run any more Shramik Special trains for the time being, as most stranded migrant workers had left in the past month, while the others had decided to stay back as lockdown restrictions were slowly being eased and the economy was opening up, government officials said.
The officials said there were too few requests from migrants now to run special trains.
Following the uncertainty over the next Shramik Special from Delhi, the few remaining migrants wanting to return home are now pooling in their savings to hire private buses or taking help of NGOs.
According to data shared by the Delhi government, of the 4,50,000 migrants who had applied, around 3,10,000 had been sent back free of cost to 16 states so far, in 237 special trains.
The officials said 90% of these trains, which were run under a special arrangement between state governments, were bound for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The remaining were destined to Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Odisha. There was a train for Tamil Nadu as well. The government had also arranged 683 buses to send 12,804 migrants to their home states.
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the government has sent all registered migrants and also those who had come to their screening centres without registration, to their home states in the trains. Confirming that there might be no more Shramik trains from Delhi now, he said, “We may send more people only if they come forward.”
An Indian Railways ministry official also confirmed that the last Shramik special train from Delhi was for Bihar on Sunday. ”No Shramik trains are scheduled as of now from Delhi. There is no demand from the Delhi government as of now,” the official said.
A senior government official, however, said they might arrange buses for migrants willing to go back home next. “Some migrants from different states are still willing to go home and have applied for Shramik trains. But it won’t be possible to send them on trains since their number is too low and they are from different destinations. The most efficient way now will be to send them home on buses,” the official said.
Officials also said that a number of people who had applied for special trains had decided to stay back also . “The government even tried to contact those who had registered and did not turn up for screening. Many said they had found work in Delhi and had decided to stay back,” a senior official said.
One such migrant who decided to stay back is Ranjeet Kumar (39), who used to work at a clothes and bags shop in Karol Bagh. He said he had registered for a Shramik train to Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, but last week got a call from his employer asking him to come back to work. “I wanted to leave, as there was no work and I had no money to send home. I had planned to go back and become a labourer in my village. But my owner called me right before i left to say he is short staffed and promised to pay me extra. So, I changed my mind,” he said.
On Wednesday, groups of migrants could still be seen outside government screening centres and railway stations inquiring about Shramik trains. On Monday afternoon, Asif, 27, had reached a screening centre in Lajpat Nagar, along five others, to inquire about a train to Bihar. The group, Asif said, works at a construction site in Sarai Kale Khan. “Work has resumed at the site but now the working hours are less and so is the income. We have spent whatever we had saved in the last two and a half months. We have now decided to go home. Someone told us that we can get a ticket from here, but we were told here that there are no more trains,” he said.
Meanwhile, around 260 migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and UP, are looking at NGOs to help arrange buses to take them home..
Sunil Kumar Aledia, founder, Centre for Holistic Development (CHD), an NGO that works for the homeless, said that they have arranged for seven buses to take 169 migrants to various districts of Bihar on Wednesday. “We have been getting requests from a number of people from different parts of the city, who were still stuck and have no money to arrange for their travels. We sought help from south district authorities for thermal screening of these people at the Chhatarpur centre, after which they will be made to board the buses,” he said.
B M Mishra, district magistrate (South), said, “All the stranded migrants from the district have been sent home. Some NGOs asked us for support for helping with the screening of migrants from different parts of the city and we will pitch in whatever ways we can.”