States finalise plans; buses, trains to take stranded home

Published on May 02, 2020 01:59 AM IST

The Union home ministry allowed on Friday interstate movement of labourers, students, pilgrims and others stuck across the country by special trains, widening the scope of a previous order that said such transportation can happen only by buses.

Migrant workers gather in huge numbers at Laljipada, Kandivali in Mumbai, on Friday, looking for a way to return to their villages in Uttar Pradesh.
Migrant workers gather in huge numbers at Laljipada, Kandivali in Mumbai, on Friday, looking for a way to return to their villages in Uttar Pradesh.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondents, New Delhi

State governments were on Friday putting in place protocols and guidelines to receive millions of migrant workers who were likely to take trains back to their hometowns after the Centre allowed their movement in a controlled manner amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Union home ministry allowed on Friday interstate movement of labourers, students, pilgrims and others stuck across the country by special trains, widening the scope of a previous order that said such transportation can happen only by buses.

Following demands of the state governments to run special trains, the Indian Railways said it decided to run ‘Shramik Special’ trains to move stranded migrants. The railways said the Shramik Special trains were meant for “nominated people” identified by state governments.

The first train from Lingampally in Andhra Pradesh was expected to reach Jharkhand’s Hatia station late on Friday after it departed from its origin station earlier in the day. The other special trains to run on Friday were from Aluva in Kerala to Bhubaneswar, Nasik to Lucknow, Nasik to Bhopal, Jaipur to Patna and Kota to Hatia. These trains were scheduled to run non-stop and cover the distance to the destinations in 12 to 24 hours.

According to the railway ministry, it is the responsibility of the state governments to arrange transport for stranded people to reach railway stations. Similarly, at the destination station, the local administration will have to arrange for medical check-ups of passengers and their onward travel.

On arrival at Hatia, where the first train was expected to reach late on Friday, the passengers were to be first scanned for body temperature and then taken in sanitised buses to their villages, where they will be quarantined at home or government schools and primary health care centers.

“On their arrival in respective districts, all of them would go through medical screening. Depending on their condition, they will be put in home quarantine or institutional quarantine accordingly,” a state government official said on condition of anonymity. He added that all passengers will be served packed dinner at Chakradharpur station after entering Jharkhand.

Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren welcomed the Centre’s decision to allow trains to ferry workers and said that such a decision should have been taken earlier. “At this point, I will say better late than never. We should look forward rather than fight over the past,” he said.

Bihar’s minster of building construction department, Ashok Kumar Chowdhary, said on Friday that the Centre heeded the demand of the state government. “We thank the government of India for heeding our request and a strategy is being finalised to give shape to their (migrants) return,” he said.

The minister maintained that the state was fully prepared to take care of migrants, close to 250,000, who were willing to come back. The state government appointed principal secretary, Pratyaya Amrit, as the nodal officer to facilitate the return of migrant workers.

Kerala, from where a special train was to leave late on Friday from Aluva in Ernakulam district to Odisha, has asked district collectors to prepare a list of priority workers. There are around 360,000 stranded migrants in Kerala, mainly from Wet Bengal, Assam and Odisha. The railways could be looking at running five special trains from Kerala every day. A government spokesperson said the workers have been told not to leave the camps to prevent overcrowding at the stations.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel on Friday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to run special trains to bring back workers of Chhattisgarh stranded in other states. “In the present situation, point-to-point special trains could be run to ensure safety, convenience and hygiene of these workers,” the CM said, adding that the state’s request for special trains was pending with the home ministry.

Uttar Pradesh, which was the first state to bring back stranded students from Kota and then workers from Haryana in government buses, has earmarked special quarantine centres near major railway station for workers coming back.

“Nothing new is being done. We have already set up quarantine centres in major cities for stranded workers who are being brought back in buses. More, if required, will be created,” said a UP government official who asked not to be named. He said buses have been arranged to take the passengers to their villages.

Maharashtra, where about half a million workers from other states are housed at 4,600 shelters, has started allowing workers to go back and has appointed nodal officers to facilitate their travel. “We have no information about the places from where the special trains will run,” said a state government official, who was not willing to be named.

“The number of Maharashtrians stuck in other states is too little compared to the people from other states in Maharashtra. We have started taking the requests in stipulated formats from the migrants stuck in Maharashtra. District collectors in rural areas and police commissioners in urban areas will issue the passes,” said IA Kundan, secretary, Maharashtra government.

The first special train to take back students was to leave Kota on Friday night, taking around 1,000 coaching students to Jharkhand.

Till now, 27,000 students of 11 states and four Union territories have been taken back by their respective states in the past month, officials said.

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