Coronavirus | Misinformed about train service, migrant workers step out into city’s streets

They lament lack of clear communication after being turned back by officials

Updated - May 15, 2020 10:34 am IST

Published - May 14, 2020 11:57 pm IST - CHENNAI

Migrant labourers heading toward Chennai Central being stopped by the police near the Moore Market complex on Thursday.

Migrant labourers heading toward Chennai Central being stopped by the police near the Moore Market complex on Thursday.

False information, compounded by a lack of clear communication from the authorities, led to hundreds of migrant workers from Assam and a few other States descending on the city’s streets, in the hope of catching a train back home.

According to the authorities and a section of workers, it all started with the train that left for Mizoram on Tuesday with around 200 workers from Assam on board.

This was followed by the spread of information that another train will leave for Assam on Wednesday evening, and a select group of people, who had registered themselves with the governments of both Tamil Nadu and Assam, had been asked to come in for medical screening, a member of the Assam Association in Chennai said, on condition of anonymity.

As this piece of information spread rapidly among the migrant community, hundreds descended on the Assam Bhawan in Pallikaranai on Wednesday, throwing personal distancing norms to the wind. Since there was no such train service, contrary to what they had been led to believe, the workers were asked to return to their places of stay and wait for further communication.

On Thursday, many gathered at the Guru Nanak College in Velachery, which was serving as a shelter for migrant workers. After waiting with their luggage for a long time, they were allowed by the authorities to take shelter inside the premises and provided with food.

Later, tension prevailed as many workers gathered near the MGR Central railway station. The police had a tough time convincing the labourers about the arrangements being made for them.

Migrant labourers could be seen walking on the streets in Velachery, Egmore, Kilpauk and other localities. Inderjit Deka, who works as a security guard in Chennai, said he had vacated his house in Taramani and had nowhere to go. “There was no clear communication about the train or who will get to travel,” he said, adding that many others like him spent the night in the open on Wednesday.

Mukul Mondal, another worker, said, “We came here from a neighbouring district. Now, we don't have food or money. How long can we be here? We haven't bathed for two days. We want to go home.”

Joint Commissioner of Police, East, R. Sudhakar, who interacted with the workers, said, “On receiving word-of-mouth information, these workers had walked from across the city to the railway station. We explained to them that if they have registered themselves with the government portal, they will receive a message about the date and time of departure of the train to their destination.”

A nodal officer of the Tamil Nadu government said, “Usually, the State government concerned gives a list of passengers who have registered themselves on our website and theirs. Once a train is arranged, we call these passengers for a medical check-up before allowing them to board the train. On Wednesday, a train left for Meghalaya. People gathered here on hearing that information. We are trying to arrange a train to Assam in a day or two. We are in touch with the Assam government in this regard.”

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