COVID-19 in Mumbai: Lure of train home brings migrants to Bandra again

Updated: May 20, 2020, 08:31 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Only registered passengers were allowed on the train to Bihar from the Terminus; crowd was later cleared by the police

Thousands of migrants who were not registered to get onto the train, crowded the area outside Bandra Terminus. Pic/Atul Kamble
Thousands of migrants who were not registered to get onto the train, crowded the area outside Bandra Terminus. Pic/Atul Kamble

Just over a month since thousands of migrant workers gathered at Bandra station seeking arrangements to ferry them home, the Bandra Terminus saw huge crowds again, seeking to board a train. Yet again on Tuesday morning, after migrant labourers learnt about a train set to leave for Bihar, thousands of them gathered to get onto it. Sources said that the workers started arriving at around 9 am and in just few hours there were around 5,000 people.

They said they had got an update that a train was leaving for Bihar. On May 19, a Shramik special train was scheduled for Purnia district from Bandra Terminus, in which only passengers registered with state authorities were to travel. But many people who were not registered and not called by the state authorities gathered on the bridge and road near the station. Bonafide, registered passengers were checked and allowed to enter the station and the train left Bandra Terminus at about 12 noon with 1,700 labourers and their families. Later, the crowd was cleared from the area by city police," Ravinder Bhakar, Western Railway's chief public relations officer said. The city police then barricaded Bandra Terminus.

Desperate to leave
A number of workers said that they had filed applications with the police about travelling back to their home states, about five days to a week ago, but had not received any update. Hence when they heard of a train leaving from Bandra, they gathered to check Tuesday afternoon.

Railway officials said that there was no point coming to the stations, as ticket counters were shut and not open to the public. Bookings were done by the local authorities and forwarded to the railways. Only those whose names were on the list were allowed inside the station premises. Maharashtra Transport Minister Anil Parab said that there was a rumour that another train was set to leave from Bandra Terminus and hence the crowds reached.

'Forms of no use'
A leader of the migrants questioned the procedure of forms. He said, "Why did this happen? I know migrant workers who filled forms on May 5 and they are still here, while those who did not fill forms have already reached their villages. This is a mystery. When people see their colleagues getting calls from police to get onboard trains, they wonder why they are not getting calls despite submitting the forms. Many turned up out of that curiosity."

Sources said secrecy is maintained about the train departure till the last minute so that there is no crowding near the stations. However, this is leading to exactly the opposite effect, as rumours are flying thick.

Coming down heavily on the Bandra incident, former Member of Parliament and BJP leader Kirit Somaiya asked, "Finalising train timing, destination, passengers list, etc is being done by the state's Thackeray sarkar, then why this chaos, mismanagement at Bandra station? Is it police and intelligence failure? Will Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh accept the responsibility?"

Police speak
"The migrants received information that a train will be leaving for Bihar on Tuesday afternoon. Misunderstanding that this train was for everyone, a huge crowd gathered at Bandra Terminus. But passengers who had registered were allowed to enter the Terminus. Others were sent back. No force was used during this incident. We are investigating who spread the message of the train for all," said DCP (Zone 8) Manjunath Singe.

Inputs by Faizan Khan

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