First migrant special train leaves from Mumbai to Basti

Relieved migrants cheer as they finally head home

Politics

May 8, 2020

/ By / Mumbai



On the 44th day since the lockdown began, leaving millions of migrants stranded, Mumbai saw the first special train ferrying 1,140 migrants back to their homes in Basti district of Uttar Pradesh.

The Lokmanya Tilak Terminus station in eastern Mumbai’s Kurla has been deserted ever since the surprise nationwide lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 25 and all train services halted. However, on Friday, the terminus came back alive, albeit the normal chaos and confusion replaced by well organised and minutely orchestrated activities regulated by Mumbai police as a special train carrying the first batch of 1,140 migrant workers who had been stranded in the metropolis since the lockdown began, left for Basti district on the eastern fringe of Uttar Pradesh, about 1,600 km away.

The migrants, who were clearly relieved at being allowed to go home at long last, clapped incessantly and cheered as the train began to move. They also thanked Mumbai police for their help and organisation in enabling the migrants to be aboard the train. “We had asked those people to register their details with the local police station and get a medical check-up to be sure that they were not infected by Covid-19. Then, when we had nearly 1,200 passengers, a request was sent to district collector of Basti to be sure that they were equipped to receive the migrants. When we received the confirmation, each passenger was informed and they were brought here in buses from their homes and here we are coordinating their departure, while making sure that they respect the social distancing and take other precautionary measures before boarding the train as well as during the journey,’’ M M Makaandar, deputy commissioner of railway police, tells Media India Group.

The entire operation was well organised as the police ensured that the passengers maintained order and respected social distancing even while queuing up for their final formalities before boarding the train. The boarding was completed in batches of 10 and each passenger was given drinking water and food packets along with masks and sanitisers.

The migrants, relieved to be going back home after facing over six weeks of uncertainty and hardship, were gladly following the instructions of the police and were maintaining order, so much so that perhaps for the first time in the history of Indian Railways, there was pin-drop silence in a large train terminus while a train was about to leave. The only sounds at the station were those of the announcements being made by the railway authorities requesting the passengers to board in an orderly fashion and respect the social distancing norms and keep their masks on throughout the journey.

Rohit Kumar, who hails from Faizabad in UP, had been working for nearly 20 years in an ice factory in Mumbai. He is relieved at being allowed to go back home. “The last four months have been very tough for me and with the lockdown all my savings have disappeared and I am just glad to get back home. Now, I will try to find some work near my house as I don’t want to come back to Mumbai anymore,’’ says Kumar.

Many of the migrant workers are indeed just glad to be going home and have not really thought about coming back to Mumbai when the lockdown ends and the pandemic recedes from India. But a few of them do remember the reason they came to Mumbai – the immense job opportunities that the megapolis offers to everyone. One such migrant is Salman, who has been living in Jogeshwari in north-western Mumbai for 13 years and works as a carpenter. He says he feels great to finally leave for his hometown in Bigrameer in Uttar Pradesh. “I am happy to be able to go home and be with my family. But, when the situation becomes normal again, I know I will be back in Mumbai,” he says.

The pandemic may have provoked an exodus from Mumbai today, but most migrants leaving Mumbai today would do well to remember that the city of dreams would drag them back as soon as the situation comes back to normal.

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