Updated: April 16, 2021 8:54:54 pm
Platform number 1 of Kalupur Railway Station in Ahmedabad, popularly known as Ahmedabad railway station, bore a deserted look on Friday. Except for railway officials, sanitation staff, a few coolies and Gujarat Railway Police (GRP) personnel, no passenger was allowed on the 12 platforms of the railway station unless they had a train to catch in the next 10 minutes.
A team of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s health department was stationed at the exit gate to check RT-PCR reports while another railways team was put up at the entry gate to check tickets. A computerized voice played on the speakers installed at the platforms announcing ban on sale of platform tickets till April 30 to avoid crowding in the wake of surge in Covid-19 cases.
While the scene at the platform was symbolic of the pandemic times, the scenario just outside platform number 1 resonated the hullabaloo that is prevalent outside railway stations in the country, with social distancing going for a toss. A huge number of passengers were stationed, majority of them migrant workers, waiting for their trains to arrive in order to go back to their homes in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha. Auto rickshaw drivers kept dropping off passengers and later looking hopefully for new ‘sawaris’ (riders) to arrive outside platforms and coolies kept shouting in vain for customers.
Pradeep Kushwaha, 17, a native of Buxar in Bihar, had just arrived at the railway station’s ‘drop point’ from Changodar in Ahmedabad with two of his friends around 12 pm. He had a backpack and a handbag with him and within seconds, he took out a plastic sheet and laid it down on the ground for him to sit. He claimed he doesn’t have a ticket to travel and had asked one person to get his tickets done in tatkal. He said he doesn’t have a smartphone in order to use the railway’s IRCTC website to book online tickets. The railways have also stopped issuing tatkal tickets from the station counters to avoid crowding.
“I and my two friends have paid Rs 1500 each to a guy we contacted on phone. He has said that there is direct train for Buxar around 10 pm from Kalupur railway station. We will wait here outside the platform till he manages to get us a ticket,” said Kushwaha.
Kushwaha works for a garments factory in Changodar of Ahmedabad wherein he earns Rs 8,000 per month.
“We will try our best to leave for home tonight itself. We have got our salary one day ago and we are going home now, as we don’t want to get stuck here if a lockdown happens,” Kushwaha said.
Kushwaha was home last year during lockdown and arrived for the first time in Ahmedabad back in December last year.
Faizal Afroz (30), from Darbhanga in Bihar, is also waiting at the station to return home.
Afroz recently quit his job in a chemical factory in Sanand of Ahmedabad rural to move back home. He was stuck for three months in Ahmedabad during lockdown without money or food.
“We usually work during Ramzan month and go home days before Eid. However, last year, we spent Eid locked in the factory premises with bare minimum to eat. We don’t want the same scenario again so we told our employer that we might return by August if situation improves in Ahmedabad till then,” said Afroz.
With the rise in Covid-19 cases and stricter curfew regulations in place in cities of Gujarat, many migrant workers in Ahmedabad have started to move back to their home states fearing an impending lockdown.
While many migrant workers were seen travelling alone, a few were also seen with their families.
“Last year, I was stuck with my family in Ahmedabad till late August before we could get a transport back home. This time, as the Covid cycle is repeating in Ahmedabad, I don’t want to take chances and have decided to go back to my village in Nalanda,” said 46-year-old Mahendra Singh, who is waiting for a train to Patna with his wife and three kids.
Recently, the Western Railways which manages Ahmedabad railway division announced that they will introduce 14 special trains to UP, Bihar and Odisha whilst claiming that they currently run 20 special trains to these states with the surge in migrant workers travelling back to their home states. The railways also issued an advisory for passengers asking them not to arrive at the stations hours before their train’s departure time in order to avoid crowding.
“We are constantly analyzing the waiting list for each train on a daily basis and if need arises, we will increase the number of coaches for trains to UP, Bihar and Odisha. There is no need for passengers to panic and tickets are easily available online. There is no need to go to illegal touts as well,” said a railway official.
On Friday, the Ahmedabad railway division conduced “intensive sanitization” of the Kalupur railway station premises using thermal fogging machine and cold fogging machine.
“The intent is to ensure that all points including entry and exit of the railway station is being sanitized on regular intervals to curb any chances of infection of covid. This exercise had started on April 13 and will continue till April 18,” said a railway official of Ahmedabad division.
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