First train for migrant labourers from Aluva

The Railways’ first special train from Kerala carrying stranded migrant labourers from Odisha will leave from Aluva at 6 p.m.on Friday to Bhubaneswar.

The train will have 24 Sleeper Class coaches and will be able to accommodate 1,100 commuters, a top railway official said. The train will run non-stop to Bhubaneswar in view of the lockdown in the country due to COVID-19.

As social distancing norms have to be followed, each Sleeper Class coach that normally accommodates 72, will be able to carry only 45.

The train will not have pantry and the travellers will have to make arrangements for food.

The details on issuing tickets and getting permission from Odisha government are being worked out. As there is hardly less than six hours for the departure of the train and to avoid commotion in Aluva railway station, railways had put up a proposal to handover the entire 1100 tickets to the State government.

The District Collector, Ernakulam and the Rural SP has been tasked by the government to identify the migrant labourers staying in various camps and hailing from Odisha. The onward journey of the travellers from Bhubaneswar will also have to be worked out by Odisha.

Railway sources said they are ready to operate special trains on getting nod from the railway board. Rakes are ready in key terminals of the State.

Arrangements by Ernakulam police

The Ernakulam rural police have beefed up security in migrant workers' camps to ensure that the departure of the first special train does not lead to chaos and law and order problems.

The list of workers to travel by the non-stop train tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday is being prepared. Migrant workers desirous of returning home by that train will be shifted to the railway station after medical screening by the police in compliance with the social distancing norms.

“There will be no compulsion to send anyone back since quite a lot of them are willing to stay back as their work is being restored with the partial lifting of the lockdown. If in case more people beyond the capacity of 1,042 people turn up for the journey, then those with pressing needs for the return will be given priority,” said K. Karthik, District Police Chief (Ernakulam Rural). He said that shortcomings, if any, detected in the arrangements will be ironed out in the next trips.

Passengers taking the train will have to bear the ticket fare while the government will provide food and water.

“It is inhuman to collect the ticket fares from a community in distress after more than 50 days of lockdown. The funds earmarked for disaster management should have been used to foot that bill,” said Benoy Peter, executive director, Centre for Migration and Inclusive Development.

It is also being pointed out that the non-stop train to Bhuvaneshwar would leave migrants in more hardships since it would not be easy for many of them to get back to their residents in the interior areas involving hours-long travel without being quarantined during the lockdown.

Identifying migrants from Odisha, who account for about 12% of the total migrant community in Ernakulam, is being cited as another tough task as many of them are in the far flung areas of the district. It is learnt that five migrant link workers proficient in Odia language have been asked to identify the potential beneficiaries of the trip back home.

However, a migrant link worker said that other than being asked to coordinate activities at the station in the evening, they have not been given any other official direction.

Meanwhile, National Health Mission authorities said that formalities are being worked out for preparing the list of potential passengers.

Kerala was the first State to demand special trains to facilitate the travel of 3.6 lakh migrant labourers hailing from West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam held up in 20 labour camps across the State since lockdown began on March 25.

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2021 1:53:53 AM |

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