This Article is From Jun 01, 2020

As Trains Resume, Migrant Workers Line Up With Tickets And Nothing More

Many said they borrowed money from their neighbours or friends to buy train tickets and most have no money in the pockets apart from the ticket.

Migrant workers on trains said they have been jobless for three months.

New Delhi:

As limited train services resumed on Monday, scores migrant workers were among the first to queue up and brave the risk of COVID-19 infection with little more than tickets bought with money borrowed from friends and neighbours.

Out of work for since March, many don't have a single rupee in their pockets. They said they were forced to borrow money and buy the tickets because they couldn't find seats on the Shramik (Worker) Special trains that the government started running last month.

"I was working as a labourer. I am going back to Bihar as I have been out of work for almost three months now. I have no money left. The tickets (for the three of us) cost 8,100. I borrowed it from a neighbour. I don't know when I will be able to pay it back," Aryan Kumar told NDTV.

His father Umesh Mehto, said, "I worked as a labourer too. There is no work here (in Delhi). We have been siting for idle for three months. We have no money."

Others spoke about leaving Delhi because of the rising coronavirus cases.

"I am going to Patna to drop my family off. There is too much risk in Delhi," said Najmuddin Noor. The train journey has changed significantly in the post-coronavirus world, he said.

"You will not get any sheets or blankets even on Rajdhani Express. There is no food. You can only get water, tea and biscuits and even that is paid. You have to go through scanning at the station," he said.

Lakhs of India's poor including migrant workers have been badly hit by the lockdown announced abruptly two months after the coronavirus pandemic hit India, with many in cities losing their jobs, going hungry and struggling to return to their home villages.

Some have walked or cycled long distances home in harsh summer heat, with dozens dying from exhaustion or accidents.

Last month, after haunting images of pregnant women and exhausted children walking on the country's highways raised public pressure, the central government agreed to run special trains and allow buses to ferry them.

But the special trains have often been delayed, leaving migrants waiting or in trains in scorching hot weather for days, or diverted to other stations. There have also been allegations of shortage of food and water on the journeys.