Around 700 natives of different Kerala cities from all over Punjab left on a special train from Jalandhar to Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, with most of them saying that they were leaving while they could due to fears that trains might again stop running in the future. This was the first Shramik train from Punjab to Kerala.
In his late twenties, Tins Xaviour, who runs an English language coaching centre — ‘Southern Academy for English’ — at Jalandhar’s Nakodar town, left with his wife, Bismi and their two-year-old daughter.
“Due to uncertainty here I am leaving for my home town in Idukki as the centre is closed now and I do not have any idea as to when normal classes would resume. I may not come back before the situation returns to normal and there is no income while my expenditure would increase here as we are expecting our second child. I thought that it would be better to be with our elders at home at this time,” he said.
Tins had come to Punjab five years back and then started his coaching academy here. “The Shramik trains are moving now. There is an element of fear that this opportunity given by government to return to our homes might not exist in the future if cases rise,” he added while elaborating his reason to leave.
Aseeth, a school teacher in Mukatsar district, and Joy, a school principal for over a decade, were among those who had boarded the train Tuesday.
A manager with Pyramid Restaurant in Mohali since October last year, Ajit Pillai said: “My owner said that there is no certainty whether the business would come back on the track, so I decided to return to my place.” Ajit, who is a graduate in Hotel Management, added that he had a “handsome salary” here till the pandemic hit his career.
Fabin Paiva (23), a teacher of English language at IELTS centre at Hoshiarpur for past over one year was returning to his home in Kochi.
“I had come here because the owner of the institute was the friend of my friend’s brother and they hired me and my friend for teaching English. I was very happy here but now there is no work and salary so I am returning home and do not know when I will be back,” he said.
Meera Nair (42), an employee of Madras Mail — a catering service of South Indian food in Punjab, said she was sad about going back. “I have been living at Pakhowal in Ludhiana district for the past 5 years and putting up at stalls marriages functions. But this year market is not bright, so we are leaving for Kerala,” she said, adding that she was getting a good salary from her employers, but will now return only after things get better.
Meera, Aseeth and almost everyone else The Indian Express spoke to mentioned the need to cut expenses, and added that while this time they are getting a chance to return home in ‘special Shramik trains’, this chance might not exist in the future if Covid cases rise due lifting of lockdown curbs.
Vineeth S Kumar (28) has been leaving in Jalandhar Cantonment since he was seven and has been running his confectionary and South Indian Utensils shop.
Seated in the train with his parents, he said: “We have our house in Kollam and here we live in a rented accommodation. My parents want to go back and want to get me married there. We are now availing this opportunity to return to our native place.”
There were also over 300 students in the train, along with some people who had got stuck here while on business trips. Even an Army person, Rajeev T R, who had come here in April was also among the returnees.
The train only had a few daily wagers on board.
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