Under public pressure and outrage in the social media, the Karnataka government, here on Thursday, decided to resume special trains to ferry over one lakh migrant workers to their native states from Friday after stopping them for two days, leaving the stranded workers in despair.
“Shramik special trains will resume from Friday. The first will leave for Dhanapur in Bihar, followed by another to Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh on Friday evening or Saturday morning with the receiving state’s concurrence,” South Western Railway (SWR) Divisional Railway Manager A.K. Verma told IANS.
Thousands of migrants from other states have been stranded in Karnataka for over 45 days since the Covid-19 induced lockdown was clamped on March 24 and public transport, including trains, buses and flights were suspended since March 25 to contain the virus spread.
The lockdown was extended twice since April 15 and May 4 up to May 17 for enforcing social or physical distancing and containing the infection.
“Though the state government informed us to arrange 96-100 special trains to send over one lakh migrants from Friday till May 15, their departure from Bengaluru depends on the consent of receiving states, as they have to be ready to receive, screen and test them to ensure they are virus-free for 14-day quarantine,” Verma said.
After operating eight special trains on May 3-5 and ferrying 9,600 migrants to Bhubaneswar (Odisha), Dhanapur (Bihar), Hatia near Ranchi and Barakhana (Jharkhand), Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Lucknow (UP), no train was run on Wednesday and Thursday, as the state government wanted them to stay back. Their presence is needed for reviving economic activities and to restart infrastructure and construction projects.
“We sent letters to 9 states — Bihar, Jharkhand, MP, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tripura, UP and West Bengal — for the consent to send their citizens from Bengaluru in special trains,” state nodal officer N. Manjunath Prasad told IANS.
As over one lakh migrants from 9 states registered their names in the local police stations or in the ‘Seva Sindu’ portal of the state government for going home, Prasad has written to the zonal railway division to arrange two trains each for eight days to Hatia, Dhanapur, Lucknow and Howrah and one train each for eight days to Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Bhopal, Manipur and Tripura.
Besides migrant workers, stranded tourists, students, pilgrims and others have been allowed to travel by the special trains to their home states.
“As we got consent from Bihar and MP, trains to Dhanapur and Bhopal will leave on Friday and Saturday. Trains to other cities will depend on consent from their states,” Prasad said.
The Karnataka government paid the railways fare for migrants who travelled in eight trains so far and also for Friday’s train. “The MP government has agreed to pay the fare of its migrants,” said Verma.Bengaluru, (IANS)