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Passengers wait to board the train at Lingampalli railway station, in Hyderabad on Friday. A one-off special train was run from Lingampalli (Hyderabad) to Hatia (Jharkhand) on the request of the Telangana government and as per the directions of Union Railway Ministry. Image Credit: ANI

New Delhi: Days after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allowed interstate movement of migrant labourers stranded due to lockdown, a special train, carrying migrants on Friday departed from Lingampalli to Jharkhand’s Hatia.

All necessary precautions such as prior screening of passengers, maintaining social distancing at the station and in the train were followed.

Ch. Rakesh, CPRO South Central Railway, said the train was arranged on the request of the Telangana government and as per the directions of the Ministry of Railways.

“The train has no stop in between, it will directly stop at Hatia in Jharkhand,” he said.

Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi has urged the Centre to help arrange special trains to bring back state’s migrant workers and students who are stranded in other parts of the country due to the nationwide lockdown.

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Passengers, including migrant workers, travel in a special train run from Lingampalli, Hyderabad to Hatia, Jharkhand on Friday. Image Credit: ANI

“Bringing [hundreds of thousands] people back to the state on buses would not be feasible … It will take months to get people back home if we were to do so by buses,” he said.

Sushil Modi said all arrangements such as quarantine facilities have been made by the state government for those returning to Bihar.

Transport by buses not feasible

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to advise Railway Ministry to arrange special trains to move stranded migrants to their respective destinations.

“Estimates indicate that nearly one million workers will need transport to go back to their states. The only feasible option in the circumstances was to arrange special trains,” Singh wrote in the letter.

The federal Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had, on Wednesday, allowed interstate movement of migrant workers, while directing that “buses shall be used for transport of a group of persons, after proper sanitisation and maintaining social distancing norms in seating.”

Captain Amarinder pointed out that a large number of migrant workers who had come to Punjab for jobs from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand intended to return to their respective states due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Singh directed all district collectors to prepare a state-wise data of migrant labourers to coordinate their movement. He also said that one officer had been assigned to each state for coordinating the return of stranded migrants.

Kerala CM seeks special trains

While welcoming the Centre’s decision to allow interstate movement of migrant labourers, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday demanded special non-stop trains for them.

He also said that the federal government’s order to transport the stranded persons by buses is impractical.

“There are 360,000 migrant workers staying in 20,826 camps spread across Kerala. Most of them want to go back to their native places. A large percentage of the guest labourers in Kerala are from West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh,” Vijayan said.

“It will not be practical or feasible to transport such a large number of people over such long distances cutting across several states by buses. It would involve massive logistic problems, besides the high risk of the spread of the disease and hardship to the people,” he added.