Special train to ferry migrants stranded in Covid-19 lockdown begins journey

Updated on May 01, 2020 02:06 PM IST

Covid-19 lockdown: The Centre has been under pressure from states for deploying special trains to rescue stranded migrants and students.

The first train ferrying migrant workers from Telanagana to Jharkhand has nearly 1,200 migrants in 24 coaches(HT File)
The first train ferrying migrant workers from Telanagana to Jharkhand has nearly 1,200 migrants in 24 coaches(HT File)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAnisha Dutta and Srinivasa Rao Apparasu

The ministry of railways deployed a special train to ferry stranded migrant labourers on Friday, carrying over 1,000 people from Telangana to Jharkhand in 22 coaches.

South Central Railway chief spokesperson Ch Rakesh said a “one-off special train” was run early in the morning on the request of the Telangana government. “It is a one-of-its-kind special train. There are no directions from the ministry for running additional trains, at least for now,” he said.

Railway Protection Force director general Arun Kumar told Hindustan Times: “The train is ferrying nearly 1,200 migrants...The train left from Lingampalli in Telangana to Hatia in Jharkhand at 4:50 am today.” He added that a decision on more such trains could be taken later on Friday.

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The Centre has been under pressure from states for deploying special trains to ferry migrants and students stranded across the nation due to the lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The recent home ministry guidelines on interstate travel permit movement by buses, on road.

Officials said the train to Jharkhand did not have any stoppages. “It has in all 22 coaches including sleeper and general compartments,” Rakesh said. Officials also said necessary precautions, such as screening of passengers, and maintaining social distancing at station and in the train were followed.

The 1,200 migrant workers, all residents of Jharkhand, were stranded at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Hyderabad campus at Kandi in Sangareddy district due to the lockdown.

Rakesh said no public announcement was made on the running of the special train, since it could have triggered a chaos with thousands assembling at railway stations in anticipation of more such trains.

“The railway authorities were in touch with the nodal officers of the Telangana government who made arrangements for shifting of the migrant labourers to Lingampalli,” he said.

An official in the Telangana government, who did not want to be named, said the 1,200 migrant labourers were taken from the IIT campus on the outskirts of Hyderabad to the railway station in 57 buses early in the morning. Officials made arrangements for their food and drinking water.

On Wednesday, hundreds of migrant workers --- mostly from Jharkhand and Bihar --- frustrated with prolonged lockdown and non-payment of wages by contractors despite repeated requests, went on the rampage and attacked the police with sticks and stones at the IIT campus.

The situation was brought under control with the intervention of Sangareddy district authorities who assured to send them back to their native places at the earliest.

According to state estimates, about 10 million migrant labourers are stranded across the country. The movement of these workers alone is estimated to require 500,000 buses if the Centre’s social distancing norms are strictly enforced and they are transported around the same time.

Opposition-ruled states such as Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Kerala have asked the Centre to deploy special trains. So has Bihar, where the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United) are in the ruling coalition.

Passenger trains have been suspended since March 22; the Centre has allowed freight and special parcel trains for the supply of essentials. The Centre also allowed special trains for Indian Army personnel, citing national security consideration. Military specials trains have been deployed since April 17.

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