National

Coronavirus | 5 trains cancelled in Kerala over NOC

Tension in A.P. town; migrants cross Telangana border; curbs eased in Bengaluru

The Bihar government has denied permission to the five ‘Shramik Special’ trains scheduled to depart from Kerala on Monday, jeopardising the return of migrants stranded in the State for 40 days due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown. The trains were scheduled to leave from Alappuzha, Aluva, Ernakulam, Tirur and Shoranur.

The Bihar government’s decision to refuse No-Objection Certificate (NOC) came as a surprise to Kerala as the railways had already operated 11 ‘Shramik Specials’ from Kerala to Jharkhand, Odisha, and Bihar to facilitate the return of the migrants.

Rakes ready

The authorities of the Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad Railway Divisions were ready with rakes to run the trains. Railway sources said they would operate Shramik specials for migrants only after getting the NOC of the destination State. “State governments decide on the destination of the Shramik specials in consultation with the receiving State and based on the number of stranded migrants. Railways has been given authority to run these special trains only till May 17. The transportation of migrant workers has to be completed by then.”

Another destination?

As rakes are available with the two railway divisions in Kerala, the railways is of the view that the State government should look for another destination if one government denies NOC for Shramik specials. Only 12,562 migrants have been transported in 11 special trains from Kerala as social distancing norms have to be followed in the sleeper class coaches.

For Kerala, Monday’s cancellation of trains is a major jolt as migrants held up in camps and houses are restless and want immediate return. Collectors, police personnel, and Labour Officers are struggling to pacify the workers.

Tension at Kovvur

Tension prevailed in Andhra Pradesh’s Kovvur on Monday when stranded migrant labourers threw stones at government officials and the police expressing their resentment over not being sent to native places. Police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the workers.

Officials clarified that they could not allow the labourers to leave the camps without clearance from the nodal officers of the concerned States. Additional forces were deployed in the town. Later, the officials held discussions with the labourers.

Deputy Superintendent of Police K. Rajeswar Reddy said about 2,200 labourers were kept in shelter homes at Kovvur during the lockdown period. After a long stay, some of them started demanding that they be allowed to go home, particularly in the last three days.

“The migrant workers from Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh working in the sand reaches on the Godavari bank in Kovvur have been rendered jobless after the lockdown and are desperate to go back to their native States,” the DSP told The Hindu.

A few of them were engaged in some industries in the area.

Stuck for the past 40 days, the workers began to panic following the extension of curbs till May 17 and no visible efforts by the officials to send them back.

“There is no work and no money with us. We are suffering for the last 40 days in camps. Officials are dragging the issue for the last four days and are not making any arrangements for our transport,” lamented a worker.

“Officials are trying to explain to the workers about how the government is planning to send them back, and the situation is under control in Kovvur. Police pickets have been arranged at all the shelter camps in the town,” Mr. Rajeswar Reddy said.

Hassle-free crossing

Meanwhile, there was no heavy rush of stranded workers or others at the exit and entry points on the inter-State border between Telangana and Maharashtra on the National Highway 44 on Penganga river bridge in Adilabad district as expected on Monday.

The proceedings were orderly and those headed towards Maharashtra had only to wait for 10 to 15 minutes before the formalities were completed.

The outgoing persons were thermal screened and their details noted down. The incoming persons were not only being screened but also being stamped for home quarantine once they reached respective destinations.

About 3,000 persons travelling in private vehicles had crossed over into Maharashtra since the last three days while over 500 had entered Telangana at the border. There, however, is no record of people, mostly migrant workers, who were travelling atop lorries.

Back to normalcy

In Karnataka capital Bengaluru, life and businesses started limping back to normalcy after the lockdown restrictions were eased in most parts of the city from Monday, barring the 21 containment zones.

Most shops and commercial establishments opened their shutters. But hotels, malls, cinema halls, markets and barber shops remained closed.

As the police had permitted free movement of vehicles without pass from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., a large number of vehicles hit the road due to which traffic snarls were witnessed in parts of the city. A few flyovers, including Mysuru Road Flyover and Anand Rao Circle Flyover, were opened to allow movement of vehicles, resulting in slow moving traffic in and around their vicinity.

Highways such as Old Madras Road and Tumakuru Road drew a large number of vehicles as inter-district passes were not required for movement of people in cluster of five districts around Bengaluru. People were seen travelling to and from Nelamangala and Hoskote in Bengaluru Rural district and Kolar district via Tumakuru Road and Old Madras Road highway.

Chickpet sees activity

Chickpet, one of the most important trading areas in the city, saw some activity as many cloth, readymade garment, and book shops were opened, but did not see much business. “Pending works like stock checking, cleaning and accounting are being carried out. We hope to see some business in the coming days,” said Sajjan Raj Mehta, a trader.

With public transport not yet plying, traders are of the opinion that the business will take off properly only after inter-city, inter-district, and intra-city public transportation is allowed.

Though many jewellery shops across city opened, they don’t expect business to pick up any time soon.

Offices still cautious

Many workplaces remained closed and employees of various firms continued to work from home, as employers and companies remained cautious. Many companies have adopted a wait-and-watch policy and have asked employees to continue to work from home until further notice.

An Indian multi-national company, with offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru, has cut down travel budgets and asked its employees to work from home. An employee of the company, who wished to remain anonymous, said employees, especially those with children below the age of five and elderly parents, had been asked to not travel and work from home until intimated otherwise.

The same policy was being followed by a multi-national professional services firm. “Despite relaxations, it seems unlikely that employees will be asked to come in to work at least until the end of May,” said an employee.

According to an HR professional working in the research and development wing of an automobile major, the company has asked expectant mothers, employees with young children and old parents, and those with breathing issues to continue to work from home.

With the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike also allowing construction activities in wards that have not reported cases of COVID-19, some developers are likely to resume work shortly. However, with many migrant workers leaving the city to go to their respective home towns, it is still unclear if they will have enough manpower to resume operations.

(With inputs from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka Bureaus)

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 2:16:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-5-trains-cancelled-in-kerala-over-noc/article31505901.ece

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