The train’s whistle at Dadri Railway Station at 1 pm on Saturday was music to the ears of Radha Devi (33) and her family, who have been waiting 53 days to be able to head home to Aurangabad, Bihar.
This is the first migrant train to have left from UP’s Gautam Budh Nagar district. Before it left, Rajeev Rai, the Dadri SDM, said, “1300 people had registered for this train on the jansunwai website; we were waiting for more to turn up.” Eventually, the train left with 978 migrants.
When Devi’s family first received a message about the train at 4:30 on Friday from Gautam Budh Nagar officials, they started packing immediately. At the railway station, she said, “My husband, a barber in Noida, now plans to start a business in our hometown. Every day for the last two months, our landlord has been asking for rent. When we went to collect food from centres, we would receive food for four instead of six. So my husband and I would hardly get to eat because we would save it for our kids. At home, food and rent will not be a bother.”
Because the turnout was lower than expected, authorities made exceptions for a few who were not registered and allowed them to board the train. Among them was Ghanori Ram (38), a daily wage labourer. “I heard from an acquaintance around 11.30 am that there is space on the train. My brother and I packed immediately and left. I had applied on the website earlier, but I did not receive any message.”
Coaches with a capacity of 75 carried around 50 people. Health teams were stationed to conduct thermal checks — once before entering the station and again after everyone took their seats on the train. “Those with a temperature over 100 are not to board the trains. Ambulances will be arranged to take people to the nearest hospital if symptoms are detected,” said a health official.
District Magistrate Suhas L Y said, “In the first phase, we have attempted to send people back to their homes in Bihar. This will continue over the next few days. We request people to wait patiently. They will receive messages on their phones that will serve as train tickets. People will be picked up from common points near their homes and brought to the railway station.”
Regarding people who do not have a smartphone and cannot apply on an online portal, the DM said, “Our team is on the ground, trying to identify such people and make arrangements for them.”
Also on the train was a group of 20 young men, both workers and students. “We started walking from New Ashok Nagar, but once we reached Greater Noida, authorities caught us and told us we cannot go any further. This was seven days ago, and we had been quarantined at Gautam Buddha University ever since. Eventually, officials helped us register on the website and now we are all on this train, going home together,” said Vishal Kumar (24), who travelled to NCR to appear for his ITI examination.
While most people carried only essentials, Pinki Devi (29), a factory worker, “carried everything that we own”. “After the kind of issues that we faced here, I do not think I want to come back. The children are really happy to go back home. My six-month-old daughter will be going to her village for the first time,” she said, filling water bottles before the journey.
Another train left from Dadri to Sasaram on Saturday with 1,524 people on board. Trains left from Gautam Budh Nagar’s Dankaur to Siwan with 1,520 people and to Buxar, with 656 people. “Around 70,000 people had applied on the website to go to Bihar. But keeping their health in mind, we could not register all of them. Many who were registered have not turned up,” said the DM.
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