“For five days we slept under a bridge along the GT road waiting for our turn to come…A train left for Katihar yesterday, but our number did not come….We were preparing our food there, waiting …There was no public toilet around. It’s been tough, and on top of that police would come and cane us,” says Ashok Singh (49), who hails from Rupauli in Bihar’s Purnia and worked at a plywood factory in Hoshiarpur.
He along with 12 others came to Jalandhar on foot to catch a train from there, since none have been running from Hoshiarpur since registrations for Shramik trains started in Punjab.
After waiting for five days outside Balle Balle Farms, a wedding venue being used as Covid screening centre for migrants, the group started for Bihar on foot.
As they waited in a makeshift shed along the way around 10 km from Phagwara on Thursday, a thunderstorm lashed the spot making them scurry for better cover. One among them, Varun Kumar, said that now they can only go forward as even their landlord has refused to allow them back.
“Vo kehta hai itne din se tum ghar se bahar ho kaise ghar mein vapis le sakta hun tumhe,” said Varun, adding that he had reached Jalandhar on Sunday and started for Bihar on foot Thursday.
Jalandhar is the only district in Doaba from where the Shramik trains are being run. While Hoshiarpur district can send migrants from Jalandhar after requesting a train from railways, no such move has been forthcoming from the administration for the past two weeks.
The delay has made several among 20,000 migrants from Hoshiarpur, who have registered for Shramik journeys, descend on Jalandhar. And now a few out of these groups have left for Bihar on foot.
On Thursday, as rain poured down, they took shelter under flyovers, sheds trying to save young children from the downpour.
“If the trains are to be run from Jalandhar, then they should send us from Jalandhar railway station. Why are they are asking us to go back to Hoshiarpur from where we have come to catch a train,” said another labourer, Bam Bam Yadav, from Dasuya in Hoshiarpur district.
“This is injustice that even 15 days after registering we are being made to wait,” said another labourer, Rajesh Kumar.
Cabinet Minister Sunder Sham Arora, who is from Hoshiarpur, said:“We have requested for a train from Hoshiarpur and when the permission will come, we will send migrants from here in the train.”
He added that arrangements were being made to send migrants from Jalandhar.
“Migrants of any district can be sent from the eight places from where trains are running. For that, the respective Deputy Commissioners (DCs) can demand a train from railways and then migrants must be brought in buses to the selected place after their medical,” said Divisional Railway Manager, Ferozepur, Rajesh Aggarwal.
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