Early on Sunday morning, 32-year-old Nilandan Das, a worker at a pharmaceutical company in Telangana’s Sangareddy district, began walking on NH65 towards Lingampally railway station, from where a special train had left for Jharkhand on Saturday.
His three-year-old son on his right shoulder and a bag of rice on his left, Das was among hundreds of workers who arrived at railway stations in and around Hyderabad on Sunday in the hope of finding a train home.
On the way, he steals a glance at a table with food kept on the roadside by a good samaritan. “I am not hungry. Give it to others who are coming behind us,” he tells the man behind the counter. He picks up a packet of biscuits for his son, and walks on with his wife trailing behind him.
At Lingampally, however, he and 20 of his companions, all pharma company employees in Sangareddy, found no trains.
Disappointed, yet undeterred, the group, like many others, decided to make the long walk to Secundarabad railway station, some 25 km away.
“If not today, they will start tomorrow. We have to be at the station to catch the trains,” says Das.
Also among this crowd of hopefuls was Sanjiv Kumar, 26, a painter from Bihar. “When they can send Jharkhand workers home why can’t they send us too? We are at the end of our patience, locked down in shanties with nothing to do. Why isn’t the Bihar government requesting the Telangana Government to arrange a train for us?” he wondered.
Elsewhere in Hyderabad city, several tried to get to Secundarabad station, but were stopped by police personnel. At Tolichowki, hundreds of migrant workers came out on the streets demanding they be allowed to go home. The workers-from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal-demanded the government arrange trains or buses for them.
“They work at the construction sites but there is no work now. Someone told them that government has allowed migrants to return to their homes and has arranged trains so they came out on the streets to go to Secunderabad. They are home sick and want to just go home. We informed them that as and when trains are arranged we will inform them and arrange for their transport. Then they went back,” said Inspector K Sunil of Humayunnagar Police Station.
Those who had already reached Secunderabad railway station, meanwhile, refused to return and decided to stay put on the footpath, even as the authorities tried to convince them to go to nearby shelters.
An official said the workers were misled by some supervisors who told them to leave immediately as that trains were started for migrant workers.
“The supervisors and owners who were taking care of them by providing food probably wanted to get rid of them. So they told them that government has arranged special trains. They walked up to the railway station with false hope and now they are refusing to go back,” he said.
Meanwhile, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Sunday decided to allow people stranded on either side to return home.
The Telangana Police also started giving passes to stranded migrants to enable them to leave the state. It is also being done to assess the number of stranded migrants, the states they belong to, and the number of trains or buses needed to take them home.
“After the Jharkhand train, a large number of migrant workers have started approaching police stations in Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda commissionerates seeking help to go home. We have started issuing passes now, and when the governments decide and arrange trains, we will inform them and make arrangements for them to go to railway stations,” said DGP M Mahender Reddy.
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