The first Shramik train left the city for Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday at full capacity with a total of 1,188 passengers. The passengers were first screened at Interstate Bus Terminal (ISBT) in Sector 43 before they were ferried to Chandigarh railway station for departure. Chairs had been arranged at Sector 43 to maintain social distancing.
A passenger, Vikas, was sitting with his bag awaiting his turn, said he had been working as a helper at a shop in Manimajra. “The shop owner had given us enough ration for the curfew period, but I was missing my parents and they too, were calling me home. I’m glad I will be with them soon,” he said.
Sonu, who worked as an auto driver, said he still had some savings left, but he wanted to be with his children and his wife who lived in Gonda district.
17 CTU buses ferried the passengers to ISBT while 26 buses took them to the railway station, as per CTU’s general manager Yashjeet Gupta.
Train ferrying migrant labourers left the Chandigarh railway station at 6.30 on Monday for Gonda district in UP
Sant Arora/ HT
The chief ticket inspector Rakesh Kumar said the train had 22 compartments. “The train can seat a maximum of 1,188 people if social distancing has to be maintained. The middle seats have been kept empty,” he said. The train left half an hour late at 6.30 pm for the 12-hour journey. Although no stops have been scheduled but three to four short stops will be made for maintenance, he added.
Waiting for the train to depart, Munna from Mahu village, who had been working at a petrol pump in Manimajra said he wasn’t able to work enough shifts and had run out of money. “We have farms back home. It’s better to work there in the fields rather than wait for the government to provide us meals,” he said.
Jai Prakash, a labourer living in Sector 25 said that rather than stand in crowds to get a meal, he would rather be working in his own fields.
Deputy superintendent of police (DSP, east), Dilsher Singh Chandel, was also present at the railway station to monitor the situation. He said nearly a 100 policemen were deputed to maintain accord.
The Shramik train will run daily from Chandigarh. The next train is scheduled to depart the city at 2 pm on Monday for Kishanganj district in Bihar.
While passengers waited for the train to depart, Congress and BJP leaders also reached the spot and got into an argument following which police had to intervene. Local Congress head Pradeep Chabbra said they had come to send off the labourers when BJP workers started sloganeering. “We also started shouting slogans, but the police intervened and asked us to leave,” Chabbra said.
However, local BJP head Arun Sood said, “The sloganeering was one sided. We had come only to provide food to passengers.”
Station officials said the situation was soon diffused and political leaders were escorted off the premises but nobody was detained.