“My mother has gone to sell her phone to buy us a ticket to Kolkata. We will leave soon,” said 10-year-old Hemant, as he watched men and women move past the barricades with their luggage to enter the New Delhi Railway Station at Paharganj on Thursday.
Hemant and his younger brother, a toddler of about a year, spent the night with their mother on the footpath outside a closed tours and travel shop across the station. The family has been there since Wednesday, after arriving from Southwest Delhi’s Kapashera.
His brother woke up from a nap and started crying. “Papa teen mahine pehle chale gaye bol ke ki toilet jaa raha hu, phir wapis aaye hi nahi, (father left three months ago saying that he’s going to the toilet and hasn’t returned since),” said Hemant.
His mother, returning from the errand, said, “The landlord was threatening to throw us out if we didn’t pay rent. I have sold my phone to book a ticket, but no train is available before May 22. We have nowhere to go so we will stay here on the road.”
On the third day of the railways resuming passenger services after the lockdown, with special ‘Rajdhani trains’ having premium fares, the number of stranded migrant workers waiting outside the New Delhi station, without a train ticket, has continued to grow.
On Thursday, many arrived after walking long distances from within and outside the city, only to be told they can only buy a ticket on the IRCTC web portal and that fares were too high.
Besides a few social workers handing out food every now and then, there was no helpdesk or Delhi government volunteer at the Paharganj entrance to help migrants. They, too, claimed no one from the government reached out to them with any information.
Priyanka Devi (22), carrying her toddler while her three-year-old daughter follows her around, said she and her relatives walked to the station from Najafgarh on Thursday to find a way to reach their village near Bihar’s Patna.
“My husband used to work as a labourer in Najafgarh and he met with an accident on Holi — a car hit him as he was crossing the road, he later died in the hospital. We didn’t know how to take the body back to the village, so we did the last rites here and were staying with our relatives… then the lockdown was announced and we were stuck,” Devi said, standing with a group of women and their children.
While a number of tours & travel shops outside the Paharganj entrance opened their shutters, they claimed they were only giving information to migrants about the trains and not booking tickets.
“The IRCTC portal is not accepting our ‘agent’ login ID and password; booking tickets without that would cost us a lot,” said a travel agent. Rajesh Malhotra, another travel agent, added, “There are no tickets available else we would have booked it for them.”
Pyarelal and his family had been walking for eight days from Narnaul in Haryana, where they worked in a brick kiln, before they reached the station on Thursday.
“God only knows what things we have seen on the road, the hardships we have faced. We haven’t bathed in four days and ration has run out. Someone got hit by a train before our eyes near Rewari, Haryana, and we spent nights in open farms and fields, evading police. On reaching here, officials told us there’s nothing they can do,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines