COVID-19: Migrants stuck on trains without water and food

Updated: May 23, 2020, 07:37 IST | Arita Sarkar, Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

While a Central Railway spokesperson says delay of a Manipur train is because of terminal congestion in the North East; a West Central Railway spokesperson blamed the delay on the bunching of trains moving there

Many passengers said they don't even have money to buy food at stations where the trains stop. Pic/Hanif Patel
Many passengers said they don't even have money to buy food at stations where the trains stop. Pic/Hanif Patel

The bunching of Shramik Special trains on the West Central Railway and terminal congestion in the North East has led to a delay of over 10 hours for most trains carrying migrants from Mumbai to their destinations.

The train that left CSMT for Jiribam Railway Station in Manipur on Thursday had halted at Bhusawal Railway Station all day on Friday. Trains heading to their destinations in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were running late by over eight hours.

Most passengers complained that they had not been provided water and food. Kajal Thangjam, one of the passengers on the train to Manipur, who is an MBA student, said that vendors at the Bhusawal Station were trying to take advantage of their desperate situation. "They are not selling less than three bottles of water and that too at R100. None of us have too much cash and we can't afford to pay so much for water," she said. She added that none of the passengers were screened before they boarded the train and no norms of social distancing are being followed.

Ibemcha Samurailatpam, is travelling with her one-year-old and hadn't eaten all day. "The water we brought from home is almost over. We had brought some food which got spoilt because it is so hot. I only have some fruits which I am saving for my daughter," she said. The passengers said that even while they waited for the train at CSMT on Thursday, they were not given any food, water or masks that were supposed to be supplied by the collectorate.

No water, no food

Ashraf Khan, who works in a furniture store in Vasai Road, said he and 21 relatives boarded a Shramik special train on Thursday evening to go to Pratapgarh. "We were told that the train won't stop anywhere for passengers and there will only be limited stops for refilling essentials. The kids with us have been crying for food. Each passenger was given a food packet and water at Vasai station and nothing after that. The train was stranded at one location before Khandwa station for 8-10 hours," Khan said.

Ibemcha Samurailatpam  with daughter Sara, has no water and only some fruits with her
Ibemcha Samurailatpam with daughter Sara, has no water and only some fruits with her

Another migrant, Shahid Khan travelling on the same train said, "Forget drinking water, there is no water in the toilet. We have kids with us too. We are on fast but the kids need something to eat. Does the railway think that a packet of food given to us will be sufficient for our journey? Who cares about the poor migrants?"

A passenger, Khalid Hussain, said wherever the train stopped, locals rushed with food for them, but they have no money to buy anything. "I can't recall the name of a station, but a few people were distributing khichdi for free to passengers. When I got down to get the khichdi, the motorman blew the horn and the train started to move," said Hussain.

Official speak

A West Central Railway (WCR) official admitted to be facing a punctuality issue with migrant specials because of the 'bunching of trains,' but ruled out their claims of facing food and water scarcity.

"Indian Railways has been providing food and water to all the passengers travelling on the Shramik special trains. We have been providing food packets, biscuits, milk, water bottles, etc to passengers," said a senior official from West Central Railway.

"WCR is a sandwich zone of the Indian Railway, where the inflow of trains has suddenly increased from Western Railway, Southern Railway, South Central Railway, etc. There is bunching of trains on the Mumbai-Howrah route since Friday afternoon and we have been trying our best to smoothen the rail traffic at the earliest. The bunching of trains is upto Jhansi and Allahabad. It is the reason that the Shramik specials coming from different zones are being stopped for longer duration," the official added.

Regarding the Manipur train, a spokesperson from the Central Railways said, "Due to terminal congestion in the North East, trains are getting delayed. We are clearing the trains on priority. We are supplying food packets wherever the trains are stuck and we will look into any other individual complaints we receive."

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