Braving the heat and the chilly nights, 24-year-old Devender and his sister Bhuvaneshwari have been camping outside the Secunderabad railway station for the past two days, unaware that the government has stopped the special Shramik trains meant to help migrant workers return to their home states.
Devender is a native of Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh. He and his sister were working at a construction site at Kodangal. They have been staying in Telangana for more than a year and were earning Rs 12,000 per month. They had to depend on their savings to survive during the lockdown.
Now, after draining all their savings, Devender was hoping to go home by the state-funded Shramik trains. However, he was met with a rude shock when authorities at the railway station reservation counter informed him that the Shramik train services have been terminated. â€śWe have no money left. Now, how can we go to our home?â€ť Devender laments.
Shramik trains are special trains run by the state and central government to transport the migrant workers free of cost. The state and union governments are to split this cost.
According to the Secunderabad Mandal Revenue Officer, Shramik trains from Telangana were stopped on May 30, â€śsince all the workers have left the stateâ€ť.
Despite many migrant workers camping outside the railway station, no authority has approached them to guide them and address their concerns, the stranded migrants allege.
â€śWe were unaware that the trains were stopped. We do not have a penny left. For the past two days, we have been taking shelter under this tree and nobody is there to help and guide us,â€ť bemoans Devender's sister Bhuvaneshwari.
Though the crowd coming to Secunderabad railway station has dwindled, the station is witnessing a busy activity with several passengers, mostly migrant workers, enquiring about the train services. But, the South Central Railway has failed to set up a helpdesk to address the grievances of these passengers and guide them.
Like Devender and his sister, Sone Ram and his two colleagues, too, have been camping outside the railway station for the past two days. Sone Ram, a native of West Bengal, was working at a construction site at Gandimaisamma in Dundigal.
He too says, â€śWe donâ€™t have any money. Even if we have any money, authorities are saying that all the seats are booked until June 21, so we are just staying, here under this tree outside the railway station.â€ť
While the Gopalapuram police were earlier providing accommodation to the stranded migrants at the government school (adjacent to the station), this service has been stopped since June 2. Thanks to the volunteers who have been providing some food, these migrant workers would have otherwise been starving.
â€śThese people are not genuine migrant workers,â€ť defends Gopalapuram Sub Inspector M Srinu when TNM asked him why services were stopped. â€śAll those genuine workers have left the state already. These people are regular people who want to go to their hometowns,â€ť he adds.
Just four days ago, the Telangana High Court, on learning that the Indian railways had reduced the services of Shramik trains in the state, directed the state government to have a deliberation with the South Central Railway and increase its frequency. It also asked the state government to run the Telangana Road Transport Corporation (RTC) buses to ferry the stranded migrants.
â€śThey are drained and penniless. You should not collect money from them,â€ť the court had said while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by human rights activists.