Three more special trains ferry 3,500 to Bihar
Five trains have left Delhi so far—one for Madhya Pradesh and four for Bihar—with around 6,000 stranded migrant workers as part of a special arrangement between the states under guidelines issued by the union home ministry on April 29.Updated: May 14, 2020, 00:47 IST
Three more special trains ferrying around 3,500 stranded migrant workers left the Capital on Wednesday for Bihar’s Bhagalpur, Darbhanga and Barauni districts from the Old Delhi Railway Station.
Five trains have left Delhi so far—one for Madhya Pradesh and four for Bihar—with around 6,000 stranded migrant workers as part of a special arrangement between the states under guidelines issued by the union home ministry on April 29.
All 6,000 migrants who have so far left Delhi had taken shelter in government-run camps set up after the implementation of the nationwide lockdown on March 25, a senior government official said. There are at least 10,000 more stranded migrants from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand in Delhi.
Government officials said a large number of migrants, however, had chosen to stay back after witnessing the scaling down of lockdown norms and the partial revival of business and commercial activities in several sectors, including industries and construction, since last week.
Over 300 state-run buses ferrying stranded migrants queued up outside the Old Delhi Railway Station on Wednesday afternoon. Ready with luggage, home-cooked food packed in layers of cloth, bottles of water and packets of dry snacks, scores of migrant workers waited inside designated circles marked for each of them to maintain distance at the entry to the station.
Despite economic activities gradually opening up in different sectors, several of them said that they may return to Delhi after their workplaces reopen, but they needed to go home for now. Most said they wanted a break from the uncertain circumstances in the city.
Rajendra Kumar, 36, said he had come to Delhi in early March to work at a cloth factory in Okhla, but could not wait to return home, where his old parents were waiting for them. While his wife wiped their two children’s faces with a wet cloth to try and save them from the heat, Kumar said he did not know when his factory would reopen. “The last two months have been really difficult to survive. My parents too don’t have much to survive on. We have a patch of land at home. I will farm it until things return to normal,” Kumar, who is from Munger, said.
Vinod Kumar (49) and his son, labourers at a bag-making factory in Paharganj, said returning to their village would be a relief. “At least back in the village, there is no fear of people getting infected. We need a break from the prison-like life here. There is no option but to come back. But for some days, we will breathe without fear,” Kumar said.
A group of labourers from Sadar Bazar, one of the biggest wholesale markets in Delhi, said their employer told them that he cannot pay their salaries and will call them back once the market reopens.
“The owner told us he won’t be able to pay us our salaries for April. I don’t know how soon we will be able to go back. I will do some work at home to survive for a while,” said Sanjay Kumar Singh, 39, who worked at a toy factory here.
Besides migrant workers, the trains also ferried a few students and out-of-work employees of private firms, who were stuck in rented accommodations.
Delhi labour minister Gopal Rai said all migrants who left in the trains were screened. “They were provided with adequate food and water. The Delhi government paid for their tickets,” Rai said. Under the scheme meant for movement of stranded migrants, the central government bears 85% of the ticket cost and the remaining 15% is to be borne by either the state of origin or destination state.
FIRST ARRIVALS IN SEVEN WEEKS
On Wednesday, Delhi recorded arrivals after nearly seven weeks of train operations being suspended by the Indian Railways in the light of the spread of Covid-19. On Wednesday morning, Delhi recorded arrivals from Patna, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Howrah, a senior government official said. For the convenience of passengers, the city government and the police arranged buses connecting the New Delhi Railway Station with district headquarters in all 11 revenue districts in the city, the official said.