Special train ferries migrants from Hyderabad to Jharkhand in lockdown

The information regarding the first passenger train for migrant laborers stranded in Telangana came out only after the 24-coach train left the station at 4.50 a.m
A special train carrying 1225 migrant labourers from Jharkhand left the suburban Lingampally station for Hatia in the early hours on Friday in a well coordinated effort by the Telangana government and officials of the South Central Railways.

Those, who boarded the train, were brought from their workplaces at IIT-Hyderabad campus little over 30 kms from Lingampally during the previous night after they cleared the screening test for coronavirus symptoms. The state government has requested the Centre to arrange for a special train to send this group of migrant labourers to their home state after they turned violent and clashed with the police a couple of days ago.

The information regarding the first passenger train for migrant laborers stranded in Telangana was released only after the 24-coach train left the station at 4.50 am as the authorities had closely guarded the entire exercise in order to avoid trouble and chaos.

Believed to be a pilot operation for the upcoming movement of migrant workers engaging the railways across the country, the decision to run a special train from Telangana to Jharkhand was taken at the prime minister's level, in consultation with the state government, according to South Central Railway sources.

Union Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy, who hails from Hyderabad, in fact, made a statement just a few days ago that the Centre was considering running special trains to send migrant workers to their respective home states. Telangana minister Srinivas Yadav, who has been overseeing the issue of these migrant workers amid unrest, said yesterday that only the railways could handle the long haul journey of these north-bound labourers.

Later in the night, at about 12 pm,, state government officials brought the Jharkhand-bound workers in 66 buses to Lingampally railway station and conducted a drill on maintaining social distancing and other precautions while travelling in the train for the next four hours, the sources said. The railway officials put 54 people in each coach with a capacity of 72 berths by leaving out the middle berth in order to maintain social distancing between passengers.

While railway authorities have made lunch and dinner arrangements for the passengers during the journey, the state authorities gave break-fast parcels and water to them at the starting point. Besides overseeing these initial arrangements, the state government is also paying for their trip. "The state government is paying the entire cost of the special train, including the cost of food being given to these workers during their journey," a senior railway official said.

While this is the first point-to-point passenger train operated for migrant laborers after the lockdown in the country, the South Central Railways have been particularly busy in transporting food grains in a big way from Telangana.

Telangana is home to an estimated 1.5-1.8 million migrant workers hailing from northern and eastern parts of the country, including states like Madhya Pradesh. These workers are engaged in labour intensive sectors like construction. Many of them were left stranded at the state border while trying to reach their home states by roads, while some others stayed put at the work sites. Earlier, chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao issued instructions to take care of the food and other basic requirements of migrant workers at special labour camps in the city and other parts of the state.

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