Nearly 8,000 migrant workers have returned to Pune from north India since June 1, when Indian Railways started operating special trains connecting some crucial destinations in the country. In the last three months, nearly 1.2 lakh migrant workers had left the district to go back to their home states since the lockdown started.
Due to the exodus of north Indian migrant workers from Pune, industrial and construction projects in the city are experiencing a severe labour shortage.
According to Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram, in the last three weeks, a total of 144 trains either terminated or halted at Pune railway station and about 23,000 persons deboarded, of which 8,000 identified themselves as labourers.
Although there is only one originating train from Pune (Pune-Patna Danapur Express), there are six other trains that pass through Pune and halt at the city railway station. These are Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai (CSTM) -Bangalore, CSTM-Bhuvaneshwar, CSTM -Hyderabad, CSTM-Gadag and Vasco De Gama-Nizamuddin express trains, which ply daily, and Yashwantpur-Nizamuddin, which plies bi-weekly.
There are a total of 14 movements (up and down trains) every day from Pune station at present, which is only a fraction of the usual movement of 150 trains.
Manoj Jhawar, public relations officer of Railways’ Pune Division, said the Pune-Patna Danapur Express takes about 1,350 passengers when leaving from Pune, but significantly lower numbers are ferried by the train while returning from Patna, indicating that migrant workers are not so enthusiastic to return to Pune as yet.
“About 1,350-1,400 passengers board the Pune-Patna train while approximately 800 deboard at Pune station in the Patna-Pune train,” said Jhawar.
As per officials in the district administration, the Pune Labour Commissioner is also keeping a watch on the number of workers arriving as well as leaving the districts by trains. In fact, as per a state government circular, the district administration can only operate a Shramik Special train for stranded migrant workers after every one wanting to board the train is ‘verified’ by the Labour department.
Last week, a Shramik Special train to Howrah via Jharkhand, for 1,600 migrants, was cancelled by the district administration after the Labour department sought a list of the migrants to verify that everyone was a ‘labourer’, and they all wanted to return home.
Till now, the Pune district administration has operated 99 Shramik Special trains and has sent about 1.22 lakh migrants home.
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