Lucknow: Lucknow’s most-preferred Mumbai-bound train, the Pushpak Express, is back on track.
In the past three days, the train has transported over 1,100 passengers, including migrants, who are now heading back to Mumbai and other places for work after an arduous journey home just weeks ago in the midst of the lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
This train is often referred to as the lifeline connecting the Uttar Pradesh capital to the country’s financial nerve centre. It resumed operations on June 1, having stopped its run after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 announced the lockdown with effect from March 25.
On Wednesday, 280 passengers boarded the Pushpak Express Special in Lucknow, according to Mahesh Gupta, public relations officer of North Eastern Railway (Lucknow).The passengers included migrant workers and the self-employed as well as white-collar employees of private sector companies who want to get back to work as the lockdown is relaxed or gradually lifted.
Sheikhu Alam, a worker at a unit that makes aluminium window frames in Bhopal and is a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich, said he was the sole breadwinner in a family of nine and had no option but to get back to work.
“We were asked to leave by the seth (the employer) after the lockdown was announced on March 24. While leaving, he gave us Rs 500 each as fare and told us to see him once things get back to normal. I was accompanied by six others from Bahraich who returned to UP at the time,” Alam said.
The initial days of the lockdown at home were good for Alam, who met his family after almost two years.
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“We enjoyed ourselves with Ammi, Abbu and the siblings. We savoured all the delicacies that we could afford—biryani, korma and others. The initial days were good,” said Alam.
But problems began after almost a month when Alam’s savings were almost exhausted.
“I had saved money for two years which I have spent and now I am left with little money. Somehow, we waited for the lockdown phase to get over. Now that it is almost over, we are returning to our jobs as its better to die of corona than hunger,” said Alam, who was travelling by sleeper class on the Pushpak Express Special.
Other workers from Baharaich were with him in the same train coach. All of them work in the same aluminium window frame manufacturing unit in Bhopal.
Aiman Khan, who was in an air-conditioned coach, was on his way back to Mumbai.
“We own a small restaurant on Meera Road, Mumbai. On March 19, after the Covid-19 cases began spreading across the country, my brother Shahdab and I decided to go back to our hometown, Lucknow. But now that the lockdown phase is almost over, we have decided to resume work at our restaurant since it was the only source of income for the family,” Khan said.
A few private sector employees too were aboard the Pushpak Express Special.
Deepak Rai, who works with an automobile company, said, “This phase is not good for any company as many people are losing their jobs. I don’t want to be the next one. Hence, I am going to resume my work.”
On the first day of its run on June 1, the train ferried around 437 passengers. There were around 420 passengers on board the second day.
The Pushpak Express’s movement, along with all other trains across the country, came to a halt when the lockdown was announced on the evening of March 24. In a major relief operation, the UP government brought back over 600,000 migrant workers who had been stranded in Maharashtra.
The scene is no different on trains to Bihar, Gujarat and Chandigarh.
Gupta, the North Eastern Railway public relations officer, said, “Things are getting back to normal. The railway administration is following all protocols regarding Covid-19. For the benefit of people, special train services have started from June 1.”
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