Migrant workers’ journey home remains a challenge, shame on the gov’t!

Shramik Special trains have been stopped by Gujarat, and hundreds wait in Gurgaon for government to send more buses


While the railways have made the Shramik Special train service sound like its biggest humanitarian service, ground realities being reported from across the country show a different picture. There is confusion, and now there is news of the train service being stopped in some states. The  Indian Express has reported that Gujarat has announced the closure of Shramik Special train service.

The state’s officials have claimed that “at least 77% of the total 15.18 lakh migrant workers” have already been sent to their homes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The others were sent to West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir, stated the IE report.

The news report quotes the state’s Labour and Employment department which has stated that 1,017 trains were run between May 2 and May 31 on which 15.18 lakh migrant workers went to their native states. “This was the biggest planned migration by any state in Independent India, and it has been made possible by great teamwork and coordination between district authorities, departments, and various agencies involved,”  Vipul Mittra, additional chief secretary, labour and employment department, who is also the state’s nodal officer for transport of migrant workers, students, pilgrims, tourists, and other stranded persons on special trains, is quoted in the IE. He claims that this is the largest number of passengers moved in the country.

The numbers of trains running have come down considerably, said the report. In the beginning there were “more than 40 trains per day”, then it was “25 on Wednesday,19 on Thursday, 13 on Friday, and 10 on Saturday.” Seven special trains were planned for Sunday, and the relocation project was shut down on Monday. While the state administration seems sure there are no more stranded workers who want to leave Gujarat, the ground reality may be different. It is not clear if migrant workers who decide to leave Gujarat in the coming weeks will be given support to do so by the state.

Meanwhile, on a different track altogether, news of a woman giving birth to a baby girl on Shramik Special train at Bokaro has also come in. A surreal photo accompanying The Telegraph report shows the naturally exhausted young mother, identified as Asimaa, on a wheelchair, holding her newborn being escorted by three PPE clad workers and others at the station. She was travelling from Thrissur  to her hometown Chotibimra with her husband Johnson who is a migrant worker. The couple boarded the train at Thrissur, Kerala and had planned to deboard at Bokaro Railway Station and then go by road to their village Simdega. However, Asimaa went into labour aboard the train, by the time it reached Bokaro, and doctors reached her, the baby was on its way. Both the mother and child were then taken to hospital.

While things seemed to have ended well for the young parents and their baby, major confusion has been reported from Gurgaon in Haryana, where hundreds of migrants are stuck in a stadium. Around 800 migrant workers including young women and the elderly have had to wait in the open overnight as they could not get on board trains and buses. According to information shared by volunteers, the workers were called to assemble at Tau Devi Lal stadium in Gurgaon on Monday morning, “to board a train passing through Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha to W Bengal”. The workers had already packed up, and vacated their rented rooms and once at the stadium discovered there were not enough buses to transport them. Most had nowhere to go back to for the night and ended up sleeping at the stadium. Around 500 were sent back to Rewari, Karnal & Sirsa shelters last night. And as reported by one of the 400 in Rewari school shelter there were around 30 sleeping in each classroom.

Till Tuesday afternoon, only six buses have been arranged by the state administration. “The workers need around 20 more busses to be plied,” said Captain Rupinder Kaur, who is coordinating the civil society volunteer work and also arranging food and water for the workers.

Meanwhile, the Haryana administration has claimed that 11 trains had been cancelled due to “low turnout”. The schedule and details of Shramik Special Trains out of Gurgaon is not known and both workers and volunteers are not informed regularly. Now it is being noted that the officials from the SDMs office are asking NGOs to “organise buses because they have admitted they don’t have enough”. Some buses have arrived on Tuesday morning, but none have left. To add to everything, the Delhi-Haryana border is also sealed this week.



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