The Railways running special Covid-19 trains has brought relief to Punjab farmers with migrant labourers turning up in the state on these trains, though not in large numbers.
Every year during the paddy transplanting season, nearly 6 lakh migrant labourers would travel to Punjab to transplant it. But this time due to outbreak of coronavirus, normal trains are not running and farm labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (UP) have not reached the state in usual numbers.
Anyone can travel in these after getting a ticket booked and following Covid-19 protocol related to travelling.
In the past couple of days around a couple of 100 farm labourers have reached Punjab on the request of their landlords here on these trains. In most cases, the tickets of these labourers are being booked online by their landlords in Punjab.
During the Lockdown period, Punjab government had arranged ‘special Shramik’ trains to send migrants to their home states free of cost and mostly factory labourers and farm labourers, who were not paddy translating experts but involved in other farm activities, had gone back. Then there was a demand from labour in Bihar and UP to run such trains from their states to Punjab for paddy season.
Then the Railway started around 200 special Covid-19 trains across the country in which people can travel by getting done normal bookings.
“I have been coming to Punjab to transplant paddy for the past 35 years since my teenage years, but this time it would not have been possible to come, if the special trains had not started,” said Anil Kumar, a labourer from Chhatwan village in Darbhanga district of Bihar, who landed at Jalandhar railway station in Covid-19 special Shaheed Express (Jaynagar to Amritsar) from Dharbhanga on Sunday late night.
He added that 17 more persons of his village were called by the landlord here in Adampur (Jalandhar) for paddy transplanting.
“The train fare was Rs 430 from my place and the owner paid that,” he said, adding that coming via bus or private vehicle from Bihar is not easy and it was costing around Rs 4000 to Rs 5000 per person due to which several labourers had almost dropped the idea of coming to Punjab this year.
“But now gradually both farmers here in Punjab and labourers in Bihar and UP are coming to know about these trains and calling each other for arranging journey in these trains,” said another farm labourer Tribhuwan Singh, who had also reached Jalandhar via the same train on Sunday from Phultora village in Khagria district of Bihar.
Tribhuwan came along with four more from his village including Rihan Kumar, Parmanand Kumar, Chhotu, Kumad Kumar. All of them were to reach Hoshiarpur to work in the fields.“Around 40-50 labourers, who came along us from our districts, got down at Ambala and Ludhiana railway stations because their landlords belong to those places,” said Sudeep Kumar, a migrant who also reached Jalandhar on Sunday.
On Saturday too, around two dozen migrant labourers reached had Jalandhar in Saryu Yamuna Covid-19 special train to transplant paddy here.
Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Northern Railway (Ferozepur), Rajesh Aggarwal, while talking to The Indian Express said that “Though these trains have been started to facilitate the public but people in general are avoiding travelling unless it is important to travel. Only e-ticketing is done and people with confirmed tickets can travel after mandatory thermal screening at the station where they board the train”.
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