Boarding the Shramik Special Train at Sabarmati Railway Station of Ahmedabad on Saturday evening, 18-year-old Govind Kumar, a migrant worker from Fatehpur of Uttar Pradesh, recounts how a few men had arrived at his rented residence three days ago.
Kumar claims that a few officials and a police team had arrived at his one-room flat in Piplaj-an urban village of Ahmedabad.
“They asked my name and phone number and asked me to submit my Aadhaar card. I was told to keep quiet and say nothing, not even to my family back in Fatehpur, about the exercise,” recounts Kumar.
On Saturday, Kumar was one of the 1,200 migrant labourers from UP, who boarded the first Shramik Special train which left around 5:30 pm from Sabarmati railway station in Ahmedabad to Agra cantonment railway station in Uttar Pradesh. He, like the other 1200 passengers paid Rs 250 for non-AC seat.
“Following all norms of lockdown and safety from coronavirus, a Shramik Special train was run by Western Railways from Sabarmati to Agra Cantt carrying 1,200 passengers who were registered and nominated by the state government to travel in this train (sic),” read an official statement from the office of Western Railways.
At least 1,100 labourers among them were from Piplaj and Gyaspur villages in Ahmedabad city, as per an official statistic. The rest were from different areas of Ahmedabad city and rural such as Satellite and Dhandhuka respectively.
The migrant workers were employed in at least eight companies of Piplaj mostly related to engineering, textile, automobile and garments and were shortlisted by the local administration officials.
“The details of all the stranded workers from UP who were stranded in Piplaj and Gyaspur villages were collected by the local Talati and Mamlatadar officials as they were labour cluster areas and then uploaded on the government portal,” said SA Gohil, in-charge, Narol Police station.
According to the workers, after collecting their Aadhaar card details they were asked to be ready.
“I had come to Ahmedabad eight months ago to work as a machine operator in an engineering company at Piplaj. Two days ago, officials took my Aadhaar card details and asked me to wait. Then on Saturday afternoon, we were informed to pack our bags as soon as possible and over two dozen red-coloured buses of AMTS (Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service) arrived in the village to pick us up,” said Kaushal Kishore (30), a native of Jalore in UP.
The migrant workers were picked in AMTS buses on Saturday afternoon and then brought to the railway station, where they were first screened for temperature.
Railway Police personnel were deployed at crucial points at the platform to ensure that the passengers maintain social distancing while boarding the train.
“There are 20 coaches in this train and each coach has seating capacity of 80. However to maintain social distancing, we have allowed only 60 to sit in each with two passengers each on one side of the berth. This is a non-stop train that will reach Agra Cannt by 8 am on Sunday and the passengers will be provided food and water during the journey,” said an official of the Ahmedabad division, WR at the Sabarmati Railway station.
After being stranded for more than 40 days, when the migrant workers were finally allowed to board the train, the sigh of relief was visible on their faces.
“Never have I missed my home so much as I did in the past two months without food or a job. Now I would like to stay in my village till the lockdown is there and then look for a job in Lucknow. In that way, I can at least go back home if such a situation arises again,” said Dhiru Prajapati (24), a native of Banda in UP, who was employed in a company in Piplej.
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