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Bengaluru, May 6, 2020
With the Karnataka government yet to ask the railways to operate more Shramik Special trains to ferry thousands of stranded migrant workers to their respective home states, the process came to a halt on Wednesday. The situation seems set to repeat on Thursday as well.
About 9,600 migrants have been sent on trains to their native places in western, northern and eastern states from May 3 to 5. Thousands are still stranded across the southern state.
"We have not received any intimation from the state government to operate more special trains on Wednesday or Thursday, though we are ready, with coaches and required staff, to run trains from Bengaluru or any other city in the state," South Western Railway (SWR) Divisional Manager A. K. Verma told IANS here.
As per the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for the lockdown period extended till May 17, zonal railways will run Shramik trains to send stranded migrants in coordination with the respective states.
"As there was no confirmation from states like West Bengal and Bihar for sending their natives to Howrah and Patna, we could not risk to put these people on special trains and then forget about them, as the receiving state has to make arrangements for their thermal screening and quarantine for 14 days," a state government official told IANS.
Though hundreds of migrants had registered on the state's special website, giving details of their native places and special trains they want to board, the Karnataka government on Tuesday requested the majority of the stranded persons to stay back as economic activities have been resumed across the state and those in the construction sector should get back to work.
"We have told the migrant workers that we cannot send them to their native places unless the government in their respective states are in a position to receive and quarantine them on arrival for 14 days. Till then, we told them to get back to work and go to their native place when the lockdown is lifted and normalcy restored," said the official.
As the state government has provided free bus rides to local migrants to their places within the state from May 2 to 7, thousands of them have been leaving Bengaluru and other cities for various towns and villages in Karnataka.
Even as two special trains left Bengaluru on Tuesday evening to Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and Barakakana in Jharkhand with 1,200 passengers each, hundreds of migrants were left stranded, as COVID guidelines allow only 54 passengers in one sleeper or general coach to ensure social or physical distancing.
The Railway Police Force prevented the left-out migrants from boarding the trains and did not allow them to enter the Chikbanavar and Malur stations in the city's eastern suburb.
"This is unfair on the part of the state and the Railways to suddenly stop special trains, as we have been waiting for over 40 days to return to our native place, as we have no jobs or money in make-shift relief camps in this sweltering heat," a disheartened Saroj Kumar, 35, from Sitapur near Lucknow told IANS.
The state government initially told the Railways that it would need an additional 10-15 special trains to send the migrants, tourists, students and other persons left stranded due to the sudden suspension of buses, trains and flights after the lockdown enforced from midnight of March 24 and extended twice on April 15 and May 4.
"We hope that once the lockdown ends and situation improves, we will be able to send the stranded migrants and others to their native places by running more special trains," Verma added.