After 5 months, Odisha migrant workers leave for workplace in Gujarat via special trains
Railways officials said the rush for seats in these trains is such that no seats are available till September 20.Updated: Sep 13, 2020, 00:10 IST
Months after lakhs of Odia migrant workers returned home by Shramik Special trains in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown, over 1,800 of them today started their journey back to their workplaces in Gujarat and Chhatisgarh after Indian Railway decided to run five special trains for them.
In Berhampur town of Ganjam district, a Covid-19 hotspot till last month, over 1,400 migrant workers queued up to board the Khurda Road-Ahmedabad express. Wearing masks and maintaining social distance, the migrant workers with their families were screened before they could board the train. Of the 1,800-odd people who boarded the trains, at least 1,651 were headed for Gujarat as they boarded the 02843 Khurda Road-Ahmedabad express that will run four days a week. Similarly, over 150 boarded the Bhubaneswar-Durg express today from different stations across Odisha.
“I have not been able to get any work after I returned to Ganjam four months ago. As Covid-19 cases have come down in Ganjam, I have decided to travel back to Surat. At least I can earn something as the textile mills have started running,” said Jagdish Nayak from Ganjam.
Another migrant worker Shiva Sahu of Kukudakhandi block in Ganjam district too boarded the train to Surat that would reach Gujarat on Monday. “I would never have come back had the mills not closed down. I faced a lot of difficulty after coming back home. I have almost no money left and was waiting to go back. I did not want to take the bus ride as there have been several road accidents,” he said.
“While Puri-Ahmedabad, Puri-Okha and Puri-Gandhidham Express will run from Khordha Road station, the Bhubaneswar-Durg trains will run from Bhubaneswar. The trains will be fully reserved ones. Stoppages of the train will be restricted in view of the suggestions of the state governments,” said Kaushalendra Khadanga, chief PRO, East Coast Railway. The stations from where the passengers would board have been thoroughly sanitised to keep them free from infection.
Railways officials said the rush for the seats in these special trains is so much that there are no seats available till September 20. In Khurda Road-Okha weekly special, no tickets are available till September 20 while Bhubaneswar-Ahmedabad weekly express is packed till September 23.
The special trains started running a couple of days after Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan wrote to Union railways minister Piyush Goyal urging him to resume the Shramik Special Train services from Odisha to other states to facilitate the return of migrant workers to their workplaces.
Pradhan, on September 7, had written to Goyal requesting him to start Shramik special trains from Odisha to states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra so that the migrant workers could go back to their respective workplaces.
“There was a mass exodus of migrant workers from states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra to Odisha in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown. These workers have highlighted their plights due to the unavailability of livelihood options and difficulty in travelling back to their workplace for re-joining work. Even though some employers are willing to offer bus transport service from Odisha, a long and arduous journey via road is neither feasible nor safe for such long distances due to prevailing monsoon conditions,” Pradhan wrote after 8 migrant workers of Ganjam district were killed on their way to Surat in a bus accident. The bus was carrying about 60 migrant workers from Aska in Ganjam district to Surat.
Since lockdown, more than 9.26 lakh migrant workers of Odisha had returned home after losing their livelihood at their workplaces in Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bengal, Delhi and Haryana. Of these, 3.58 lakh workers came by 256 Shramik Special trains while the rest came by buses, cars, taxis and cycles.