A 24-coach train with 1,111 migrant workers onboard departed from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) for Basti in Uttar Pradesh on Friday, becoming the first Shramik special to leave Mumbai. The train departed at 6.12 pm, after passengers in batches of 22 to 25 were brought in buses from around Jogeshwari to board the train.
Central Railway (CR) officials said the decision to run the train from LTT was taken as per the demand raised by the state government. Those onboard were mostly migrant workers from around Jogeshwari. They were notified early Friday by the Mumbai Police to arrive at the station.
Adil Khan (25), one of the passengers, said he received a call around 2 am informing him about the train. “I had filled up the travel form hardly three days ago and did not understand why the police would call me at 2 am to the chowki,” added Adil, who had come to Mumbai in February to work as a zari worker. After reaching the police station, Adil was told that he would be sent back home in a train and would have to arrive at a designated spot from where arrangements would be made to pick him up.
Instead of calling all passengers, the police had divided the list of travelers into groups of 30, assigning one group leader for each. Each of these group leaders were called in to get their groups ready to leave. In the afternoon, the assigned workers assembled at Jogeshwari highway, from where BEST buses with 20 passengers in each, were dispatched for LTT. After reaching the station, the passengers were screened for symptoms.
After the workers assembled outside LTT, the group leaders were asked to collect the ticket fare of Rs 685 each from them and buy tickets from the counter. Apart from the ticket cost, the workers also paid Rs 20 each for their bus ride.
Among those travelling was also Arif Hussain, who also worked at a zari unit in Jogeshwari, and had reached Mumbai only two days before the lockdown was imposed. “Everyone was filling the forms… I also did the same. I had no hopes of actually getting to travel in the train,” added Arif, who was struggling to get two square meals in the city and would often sleep on empty stomach.
Chief PRO for Central Railway, Shivaji Sutar, said, “We ensured that all necessary precautions were taken, social distancing norms were followed and the entire station premises was sanitised after the train departed.” Until now, such trains had departed left from Bhiwandi, Panvel, Kalyan and Thane in Mumbai Metropolitian Region. Along with the LTT-Basti Shramik Special, another train left from Kalyan for Bihar with 1,200 passengers onboard.
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