New Delhi: Tight police vigil, social distancing and relieved faces marked the departure of the first special train carrying 1,200 migrant workers from New Delhi to Madhya Pradesh Thursday.
The ‘Shramik Special’ train will reach MP’s Chhatarpur Friday morning via Palwal, Mathura, Agra and Gwalior.
As many as 72 DTC buses dropped the 1,200 migrant workers at the Ajmeri Gate entrance of the New Delhi railway station.
The migrant workers were medically screened before they were allowed to board the buses, said an on-duty policeman.
“The SDMs (sub-divisional magistrates) monitored the medical checking process to avoid any untoward chaos. We are also not allowing anyone inside the station to avoid chaos,” said Ved Prakash, station house officer, Kamala market.
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350 police personnel on duty
Nearly 350 personnel of Delhi Police, the traffic police and the Railway Protection Force supervised the entire exercise.
The police did not allow anyone outside the Ajmeri Gate entry-exit, except for those whose names were given to them by the Delhi government.
In the DTC buses, not more than 17-20 people were allowed to sit to ensure social distancing. Some buses even carried 5 migrant workers.
“We are ensuring that social distancing is maintained. Each seat has only one person and a minimum of 1.5 metres of distance has to be maintained,” said Vinay Kumar, a DTC bus conductor, who brought migrants from a shelter in Paschim Vihar.
Some happy, some sad
Inside the buses, the migrant workers sat with eager faces — ready to finally go home.
“I have two small children at home and I’ve been waiting to go back for over a month now. I used to earn Rs 8,000 a month but in the last month, I’ve got nothing ,” said Sanjana.
Her friend, Rumi, who used to work as a domestic help, said she is out of work for a month-and-a-half now, and was desperate to go back to her daughters in MP.
Another migrant worker, Anil, said he has no option, but to go back home. “I can at least try to look for work as a carpenter back home,” said Anil, a native of Chhatarpur.
But not all were happy to make this journey back home.
Sanjeev, who lived near Jama Masjid, said he was being forced to get into the bus. “I wanted to stay back, because I might get employment options here,” he said.
There were also those migrant workers who didn’t have the privilege to go back home.
A group of 13 MP migrants, mostly rickshaw-pullers and cobblers, at the Paharganj bridge were not sent back as they weren’t staying at any government shelters.
“We weren’t allowed to enter the station. The police refused as we didn’t reside in the government shelters and our names weren’t there in the list,” said Om Prakash, a rickshaw-puller.
“Just because we weren’t staying in a government shelter doesn’t mean we were not facing any difficulties,” he added.
Migrants living on footpaths removed
Meanwhile, a group of migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand and Utttarkhand, who were living on the footpath right outside the New Delhi railway station, were asked to vacate the area Thursday morning.
Most of these migrants sold paranthas and pakoras outside the station.
At a red light, nearly 200 metres away from the Ajmeri Gate exit, Tuntun from Bihar’s Begusarai was lying down with a tiny bag.
Asked about the order to vacate the footpath, he said: “Humein nikal diya aaj subah. Hum wait kar rahe hain, hamari train kab jayegi (We were driven out. We were waiting, when will we be going home?”
“We have no documents, Aadhar card, so we don’t know how to register for this process (of going back home). But even we want to go home. We have nothing left,” said Mangal, who used to sell paranthas outside the station.
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So I have been involved in raising funds and distributing grocery drives to some of the workers in our locations in Delhi. Today, we found out that there are about 25 families total of 73 including children, workers wants to return to their home in MP. They tried contacting the local police station but didn’t receive any guidance. We spoke to the Municipal Councillor in our area but didn’t receive any clarity if he can help or not. Could you let us know where we can find the next schedule for the trains to MP and how do they go about travelling from their home to railway station? These families are very very desperate to get back home. Please conact me at the earliest.
In Delhi/North India, the term “red light” is colloquially used for a traffic signal/intersection. However, it is not used in standard English writing. I’m a regular reader of ThePrint, and I have noticed a few such editorial oversights in the last few days which is very unlike ThePrint. I understand the rush to publish articles ASAP in these critical times. But please ensure that the editorial quality checks are carried out rigorously before publishing. Best wishes!
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