Other States

Passengers forced to drink water from toilets on stalled Shramik specials

Passengers in at least two Shramik Specials were forced to drink water from toilets as their trains remained stuck for hours at stations without basic facilities in Maharashtra.

Also read: ‘Shramik Specials’ to carry more people

In a domino effect, congestion at stations in Uttar Pradesh had choked tracks further south, delaying several trains a day after the Railways announced a doubling of their frequency.

“Even fetching toilet tap water became difficult after a point. People were fighting over it. Forget food, we wanted water. Sharir me paani nahi gaya tha, kamzoori aa rahi thi (With dehydration we felt weak),” said Lav Kumar Sahni, 18, on a train bound for Ballia in U.P.

The train, which left Goa on May 21, remained stuck in the Bhusawal Division of Central Railway for hours.

“We couldn’t find any work there after the lockdown kicked in. At least back home, we will get something to eat,” said Mr. Sahni. As the train left the division’s Bodwad station in Maharashtra at 1 a.m. on Friday, the 1,300 passengers got their first meal of biscuits and water near Nagpur around 11 a.m., the workers said.

On another train bound for Rewa in Madhya Pradesh from Sindhudurg in Maharashtra, which remained practically stationary for 18-20 hours on Friday, Vimlesh Chitram, 43, said, “There was nothing to eat or drink in the train. I was anyway starving without work. It would have been better to die back there than board this train.” Mr. Chitram claimed many of the passengers on the train began drinking water from the taps in the train’s toilets.

The landless labourer from Manpura village hopes to sell some belongings to feed a family of six on his return.

Ferment over rumour

As the train remained stuck for several hours at a deserted station surrounded by forests, a rumour spread that Madhya Pradesh was refusing entry and the train was returning to Mumbai.

“Many workers got down, and began walking homewards along the tracks. I managed to convince two of them to not lose hope and stay back,” said Mr. Chitram, who used to sell tea at a station to earn ₹400 a day.

Responding to reports of stranded trains and staring passengers, Shivaji Sutar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Central Railway said, “If trains stop at stations having no food or water facilities, Railways and State governments are ensuring they are distributed at next stations or wherever possible.”

“It was only after several phone calls and pressure, the Railways provided them food,” said Mohammed Saqleen, a social worker in Odisha, who has been coordinating food arrangements for passengers of the two trains.

Double trouble

On May 19, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal announced that the number of Shramik trains would be doubled to 400 a day over the next two days. However, the sudden increase in trains has overwhelmed routes to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where 80% of the trains are headed.

There was congestion on the Itarsi-Jabalpur route in Madhya Pradesh as the North Central Railway (NCR) was not accepting more trains as there was congestion near Prayagraj, said an official of the Bhusawal Division. “The congestion is repurcative from the north. But we have moved most trains on Friday night, and the bottleneck is clearing up,” he said. On Friday, at least 23-24 shramik trains were stuck between Bhusaval and Khandwa, 130 km apart.

In Uttar Pradesh, most trains from Maharashtra were entering via the Prayagraj division to terminate at Prayagraj, Pratapgarh, Ballia, Mau, Gazipur and Varanasi, said a senior official of the NCR, requesting anonymity. “But the State government is taking at least 4-5 hours to make terminals available for the next train. Passengers are screened, given food and so on which is taking time. Even the feeder bus facility, a must to complement the incoming trains, is not enough,” he said.

To decongest the Bhusawal-Itarsi-Jabalpur route, the shortest to Uttar Pradesh, trains departing from parts of Maharashtra, Goa, and Gujarat are being diverted via the Nagpur-Bilaspur-Rourkela (towards Bihar) route and Rajasthan. “We are looking at the fastest, not the shortest routes,” he added.

As many as 1,311 shramik trains passed through the Prayagraj division from May 2 to 22, of which 122 trains terminated there. “On an average, we handled 10 lakh passengers in the division during the period,” said the official.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 6:04:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/passengers-forced-to-drink-water-from-toilets-on-stalled-shramik-specials/article31660543.ece

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