INDIA: Trains set to resume but only online bookings on, migrants hope for the impossible

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Binod from Muzaffarpur of Bihar returning from Panipat in Haryana on foot.

New Delhi: Binod, a resident of Bihar’s Muzaffarpur had left his village four months ago to work at a bedsheet manufacturing unit in Haryana’s Panipat. But the sudden announcement of nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of novel coronavirus has shattered his dreams.

With only Rs 400 in his pocket, he left on foot from Panipat on May 7 for his home.

On the way back, he was beaten by police on the Delhi-Gurugram border, resulting in damage of his mobile phone.

Now he has arrived at New Delhi railway station after he was turned back from Lal Kuan area in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district to get a train to travel back to his home.

Speaking to IANS, Binod said, “I used to work at the bed sheet factory. But one and half month ago, the factory was shut as lockdown was announced.”

He said, he received the salary of one and half month, the period during which he worked in the factory. “But as the money started running out, I left from my room in Panipat to my village in Muzaffarpur on foot,” he said.

Narrating his ordeal, Binod said, “I was having only Rs 400 when I left from my room in Panipat. To save money to reach my home I ate twice in last four days.”

He said, a woman in Haryana provided him food free of cost and also gave Rs 50 to him.

“I used Rs 50 to buy the second meal,” he said in a choked voice with teary eyes.

He said that he was beaten by police officials near the Gurugram-Delhi border on May 9 when he tried to enter Delhi.

“When police beat me my phone was broken,” he said, adding that now he cannot call his family members at home.

He further said that he was returned from Ghaziabad to Delhi on Sunday evening by police as they said that train services will resume from May 12.

However, for Binod buying a ticket is more troublesome as government has said that the tickets will be sold only on IRCTC website and no tickets will be sold on ticket counters.

“Now what should I do? I don’t have money to buy ticket and now I don’t even have a phone to buy online ticket,” he rued.

Similar is the condition of Parmanand Kumar, who has arrived in Delhi from Himachal Pradesh on foot and by hitch hiking on trucks.

Kumar said that he started his journey from Himachal Pradesh’s Chamoli on May 5. “After six days of travel on foot and on trucks today I have reached New Delhi railway station. Now I am clueless how to buy a ticket, for Bihar” he said.

Kumar, a resident of Bihar’s Jamui further said that the government should make the tickets available for the labourers stranded in several parts of the country.

He said, “We do not have IRCTC ID and we don’t know how to book tickets online. Even the fare of the Special AC trains are equivalent to Rajdhani Express which is beyond our reach,” he added.

Besides Binod and Parmanand, there are several other migrant workers, who have arrived at New Delhi railway station to buy a ticket and catch a train to return to their homes.

On Sunday, the national transporter announced to gradually resume the train services with 15 pair AC trains equivalent to Rajdhani Express from New Delhi.

According to railway officials these trains in the initial phase will run as special AC trains from New Delhi Station to Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi.

“Only passengers with valid confirmed tickets will be allowed to enter the railway stations,” an official had said.

The Indian Railways, which has suspended the passenger, mail and express trains from March 25 amid the nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has started to run the Shramik Special train from May 1 to transport the stranded migrant workers, students, pilgrims and tourists.

Till 10 a.m. on Monday, the national transporter has operated 468 Shramik Special trains and transported over 4.7 lakh people across several states.