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Train lottery leaves migrants in lurch: ‘My family went, but I got left behind’

Almost 75,000 migrants -- all from UP and Bihar -- have got registered with the UT administration to board Shramik trains from Chandigarh railway station since May 10.

Written by Saurabh Prashar | Chandigarh | Updated: May 17, 2020 10:17:57 am
Train lottery leaves migrants in lurch: ‘My family went, but I got left behind’ Migrants wait outside ISBT-43, hoping to catch a train home, in Chandigarh on Saturday. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

AFTER RECEIVING an SMS confirmation on his phone, construction worker Shakil Ahmed, 31, reached Chandigarh’s ISBT-43 bus stand with his family on Saturday. After hours of chaos, he returned to his rented accommodation alone, because while his family was allowed to enter the holding centre to board the train to their native Uttar Pradesh, he wasn’t, even though theirs was a common registration number.

Similarly, Durgesh Nanda, 28, a constructional worker in Sector 82, Mohali, was allowed to enter ISBT-43 to board a Bihar-bound train but his seven fellow workers were not allowed to even stand in the queue.

Chaos and confusion prevailed at the bus stand on Saturday as in case of large families, preference was given to women, children and senior citizens, while others were left behind. The process of shortlisting migrants — who will go or who will not — is so complicated that people standing near the entry point of ISBT-43, despite having SMS confirmation on their cell phones, were not sure whether they would manage to board a train.

Read | Train lottery leaves migrants in lurch: ‘When will my turn come?’

ISBT-43 is the holding centre for medical screening of migrants eligible for travel prior to boarding the trains.

At the bus stand, thousands of people queued up holding their phones to show the text message sent by the UT administration: “Your stranded request registration number is…Please use the same for further communication.”

Almost 75,000 migrants — all from UP and Bihar — have got registered with the UT administration to board Shramik trains from Chandigarh railway station since May 10. Till May 16, around 19,616 migrants were sent to their native states in 13 Shramik trains.

Speaking to The Indian Express at ISBT-43, IAS officer Yashpal Garg, appointed to look after the overall operation, said, “Indeed there is a lot of confusion. First, one man got a registration number for his entire family and in several cases for an entire group ranging from 12 to 25 people. Second: Migrants residing in Mohali and Panchkula also enrolled themselves with UT administration for boarding Shramik special trains. In the first case, we are giving preference to women with small children and their husbands. Handicapped, pregnant people and aged persons are also our priorities. But we are not allowing the entire family/group to board the train. In the second case, we are allowing migrants staying in Mohali/Panchkula but registered with UT administration to board trains but we are not allowing those who received confirmation messages from Mohali and Panchkula administrations but landed up at ISBT-43.”

However, migrants who came to ISBT-43 from Mohali and Panchkula, claimed they were made to board CTU buses to be dropped to Chandigarh railway station, but were instead dropped of mid-way. One such group of 55 people from Kharar and Mohali was dropped near Phase-2, Industrial Area. A police team recorded their names and transported them back to Mohali.

A senior officer said, “We have a plan to run Shramik trains till May 17. Since May 10, two trains each one for UP and Bihar are leaving from Chandigarh railway station. The future plan will be put in the public domain tomorrow. We have received confirmation about special trains from Bihar and UP. There are chances that from May 18, there will be only one train a day instead of two.”

Registration for these trains had started on May 2. Nodal Officer Rajeev Tiwari said, “The registration lasted 11 days. It was closed on May 13.”

After he returned to his rented room, Shakil made a call to his relatives, asking them to receive his wife Hina, daughter Junaib and mother Noor Jehan, disappointed that he could go along with them.

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