COVID-19 in Mumbai: Confusion marks road to CSMT for migrants leaving on 1st train to Manipur

Updated: May 22, 2020, 08:11 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

While a few managed to arrange for their own transport, many people said shuttle and BEST buses were delayed and poorly co-ordinated before they could reach CSMT

Student Angom Baleshwor Singh was transported to CSMT by his institute as a bus never came for him. Pic/ Suresh Karkera
Student Angom Baleshwor Singh was transported to CSMT by his institute as a bus never came for him. Pic/ Suresh Karkera

Over 1,300 migrants from Manipur got to leave for home on Thursday in the first train bound for the state but the road to CSMT itself was a harrowing one as their BEST buses either arrived late or did not arrive at all at the pick-up points. The travellers were called at pick-up points at 10 am for a train scheduled for 11 pm.

Among the designated pick-up points in the city, the highest number of passengers were from Santacruz East. People were asked to report at their pick-up points at 10 am for the train scheduled to leave for Jiribam at 11 pm. Kajal Thangjam, an MBA student from Wellingkar Institute, waited over three hours for a bus.

"My roommate received a message from the police informing her that the bus would pick us up from the Our Lady of Egypt Church in Kalina at 10 am. We waited for hours at the pick-up point, there was no one to ask for information either," she said, adding that the bus finally came to pick them up at 1:30 pm.

There was no one to manage the boarding and enforce social distancing. "It was scary. Everyone pushed and shoved. Some people managed to get on the bus but their luggage was left behind while others got their bags in but couldn't get on the bus. I was able to get in but my roommate couldn't," Thangjam said, adding that all buses were overcrowded.

No buses in sight

Residents of other areas had to make their own arrangements. Angom Baleshwor Singh, 24, is a student of the Central Institute of Fisheries Education. He and six other students were waiting for a bus that never showed up. "We called the police station but got no information. Then we were told that only four of us could board the train while the rest would have to take the next one. Luckily, the institute organised a vehicle for us and we were able to reach CSMT (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus)," he said. After reaching the station, they waited on the footpath for several hours more as registration began only around 6 pm.

Athlete goes home

After spending months confined to her hotel room, Rebita Devi Kongbrailatpam, 29, a renowned body-builder, too set out for home. Like Singh, Kongbrailatpam too had little information on reaching the railway station.

Rebita Devi Kongbrailatpam (in checked shirt) had been in Mumbai since FebruaryRebita Devi Kongbrailatpam (in checked shirt) had been in Mumbai since February

Luckily, officials from the H West ward who were taking care of her accommodation for the past two months organised a vehicle for her and five others, including three passengers from Ghansoli, one from Andheri and one from Vakola.

"These passengers were in touch with Rebita Devi and since they were not able to get in touch with their team leaders, they asked us for help. They tagged along with our officials who came from those areas and we arranged a vehicle for all of them," said HV Javeed, executive engineer of H West ward.

Kongbrailatpam who had a rough couple of months in the city and was even racially abused, was excited to return home. "I am so glad that I am finally able to go back home. My sister was very happy to hear the news and she is coming to meet me at the station in Manipur," she said.

Blame game

Authorities, however, denied having any knowledge of the chaos and blamed each other. A senior police official on condition of anonymity said, "Our responsibility is to get in touch with the passengers and verify their credentials. We inform the BEST, which is supposed to arrange the buses and the collector's office which pays for the tickets and arranges food, sanitiser and masks."

"Some problems happened due to cancellation and rescheduling of trains. We will look into coordinating better with agencies so that travellers don't face difficulties," said Deputy Commissioner of Police Pranaya Ashok, spokesperson for Mumbai police.

"The police coordinate with us. We arrange the buses and hand them over to the police. We haven't heard of any complaints about buses not showing up," said a BEST official.

Inputs by Faizan Khan

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