At 11 pm on Saturday, 23-year-old Sanjay Lodhi, a migrant worker from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, was asked by the police to pack his bags and leave his rented residence in Changodar area of Sanand, Ahmedabad and prepare to board the special Shramik express train that will finally ferry him home.
Elated, Sanjay called his family members, a local NGO and this correspondent, to share the “good news”, as he had waited 50 days since the lockdown was announced to go back home.
However, it was only 19 hours later that Sanjay could finally get a seat in the train after having waited in an AMTS bus for 12 hours all day on Sunday. The train left Viramgam railway station around 6 pm for Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh carrying 1,200 migrant workers from Changodar area of Sanand in Ahmedabad.
Sanjay, who used to work in an automobile spare parts company in Changodar, said, “Around 30 of us from different cities of UP who were staying together at a rented lodge in Changodar had paid Rs 600 each three days ago and underwent medical test for Covid-19. Around 11 pm on Saturday, we were asked by the police to pack our belongings and come out of the house. We then went to a nearby health centre in Changodar where another test was conducted on us and other workers which took all night. Then around 7 am, we were asked to board one of the AMTS buses that had arrived at the health centre to pick us up. The buses then took us to Viramgam from Changodar where we waited in the bus all day. No information was provided to us regarding the whereabouts of the train and we were not allowed to move out of the bus. Finally, around 5 pm, we were taken to Viramgam railway station and asked to board the train.”
Similarly, another migrant worker Mangesh Kumar from Gorakhpur in UP, claimed that he and his colleagues were kept in the bus for 12 hours with minimal food and water.
“Had we been told that we are supposed to sit and wait in the bus for 12 hours, we would have made arrangements for food and water. Police gave us water bottle and food packets only once in the day. Some of us tried to click pictures of us being stranded in the bus but we were stopped from doing so,” said Kumar.
H B Gohil, in charge officer of Viramgam city railway station, said, “There were two trains that left Viramgam railway station for Uttar Pradesh on Sunday — one for Akbarnagar in afternoon and another for Rae Bareli in the evening. The workers were seated in the trains according to their timing and their registration.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Surabhi Gautam, sub-divisional magistrate of Viramgam, said, “The workers were from Changodar area which falls under the jurisdiction of Sanand SDM. Till the time, the workers were in Viramgam, we ensured that they were given food packets and water bottles.”
Yet, all said and done, as the workers sat in the train and finally felt the sudden ‘push’ in their coaches as the engine moved, a sigh of relief came on their faces, as they bid goodbye to the city.
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