After being stranded in and around India’s capital city for almost two months, the first set of around 800 passengers arrived at Chennai Central on Thursday night.
The New Delhi-Chennai Central Rajdhani Express chugged into Chennai Central station at 8.10 pm on Thursday. This train service is part of the Central government’s initiative to transport Tamils living in and around New Delhi, who wanted to return to their hometowns.
The train had 18 coaches and started to Tamil Nadu at 4 pm on Wednesday. “We had prepared food and brought it with us since we were told that food won’t be available inside the train,” says 28-year-old Dinesh*. Dinesh works at a private company in Noida and lives with three other roommates, who all travelled with him to Chennai in the train. He and his friends had booked tickets through the IRCTC website by paying Rs 3,500 per ticket.
All the passengers who reached Chennai were evacuated from their compartments one after another and subjected to mandatory thermal screening by the authorities. Children who arrived in Chennai were provided with masks, coveralls and gloves to protect themselves while the trolleys were arranged for the passengers to put their luggage in, adds Dinesh.
They have been taken to the government quarantine facilities in Chennai -- both free and paid facilities as per the request of the passengers -- and will be housed there till Sunday. According to the information provided to the passengers, all the passengers are scheduled to be tested on Friday morning and if any result returns positive, then that passenger will be shifted to a hospital. All the passengers who travelled with the passenger who tests positive for the coronavirus will be housed in institutional quarantine for seven days in their own districts followed by home quarantine for 14 days.
“I requested to be housed in a hotel. They had arranged MTC buses for us to be transported to our quarantine facilities. The officials told us that they will take our swabs for testing tomorrow morning and results will come by Saturday. So on Sunday, they will make arrangements for us to reach our native districts, where we have been told to be in home quarantine for 14 days,” Dinesh explains. Separate rooms with bathrooms have been provided for them in the hotel.
(*Name changed on request)