More than 22 lakh migrant labourers already back in Bihar, the service of the special trains which ferried them are likely to stop within a day or two. The cash-strapped state government, sources said, is reluctant to continue the service, arguing that most of the migrant labourers are back.
On Tuesday, only 6 trains reached the state -- two from Kerala, three from Tamil Nadu and one from Bengal. On Monday, only 23 trains reached the state, compared to the 140 trains that run every day on an average. The numbers are likely to reduce further.
The government's move comes days after the Supreme Court ordered that migrant labourers should not be asked to pay train fare and the states should bear the cost. States like Maharashtra, Delhi abd Rajasthan have been paying for the entire train irrespective of where the train is heading. Punjab and Haryana too, paid for train journey of migrants.
The Bihar government has paid Rs 3 crore to the East-Central Railways for trains where the originating states have not paid the fare of the labourers. Most of such trains have originated from Goa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Bihar has also been one of the few states that have been compensating the migrants who have paid the fare. This, however, is included in the Rs 1000 one-time payment the state gave to all the migrant workers who registered for it.
The state has repeatedly underscored that it is cash strapped and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, even last week, had sought central assistance.
According to the estimates of the Bihar government, around 10 lakh people have also returned on foot and shared vehicles since inter-state movement of vehicles and people was allowed in May.
The special trains for migrants have been running from May 1. Till date, over 1,400 of the 4000-odd Shramik trains that ran came to Bihar, which has one of the largest migrant populations.
While there is no concrete database of how many people moved out of the state in search of livelihood, almost 29 lakh people had registered for the Rs 1,000 aid promised by the Nitish Kumar government after the lockdown was announced in March.
Government officials estimate that so far, around 32 lakh people have come back to the state. Of them, 2 lakh people came back in March by bus, with the help of the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh governments.
After the lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, lakhs of workers across the country found themselves out of a job overnight. Left to fend for themselves, many started a long march home as all transport ground to a halt.
The special trains, which started on May 1 by the Centre after considerable tussle with the states, were not of help for everyone.
Faced with glitches in the system and a process of registration they could not handle, many tried to make their way home on illegal trucks, tempos, auto rickshaws and even cycles.