Even though it has been over four days since the Karnataka government reversed its earlier decision, and decided to re-start train services for migrant workers, many people were seen walking along the national highway leading out of Bengaluru on Monday. The workers who had set out on foot on Thursday had returned to their residences after hearing the news of trains restarting. But over the last three days, many of them grew impatient after they were told to wait for their turn to board the train taking them home.
â€śI waited at the police station all day yesterday but I have still not been informed when I will be able to leave,â€ť says Parvej Alam, a 22-year-old from Biharâ€™s Purnia district who is employed as a tailor in HSR Layout in the city.
Parvej was informed by the police at the Bandepalya police station that he has to book tickets on the train services being started by the Indian Railways on Tuesday. These are not connected to the Shramik trains, which are meant for interstate travel of migrant workers and others who are stranded. Shramik trains operate from point to point and do not have stops along the way.
â€śIf workers are registered for the Shramik train services, we are telling them that they will receive a call when they will be taken to the railway station. Those who have not registered yet, we are asking them to book trains online, since services will be started tomorrow,â€ť Yogesh, the inspector of Bandepalya police station who was interacting with workers, told TNM.
A volunteer providing food and water for migrant workers attempting to walk long distances told TNM that he has observed hundreds of workers walking along National Highway 44 which connects Bengaluru to Chikkaballapura, on each of the last four days. Workers are walking on this road in an attempt to reach Hyderabad and hope to hitch a ride on a truck going in their direction.
Migrant workers are still walking along NH44 towards Devanahalli in northern Bengaluru. Even though trains have re-started, workers have continued to resort to walking since they do not know when they will be able to board the train and are struggling to pay the ticket prices. pic.twitter.com/FpTBLGF7Gpâ€” Prajwal (@prajwalmanipal) May 11, 2020
Officials tasked with facilitating travel of migrant workers by train admit that due to the large number of migrant workers looking to return home, many will have to wait for their turn to board the train. â€śUltimately, they will get to board the train. It is better than attempting walking. But we are failing to communicate this to the workers,â€ť says a senior police official in Bengaluru.
Similarly, long lines of migrant workers were seen at the Sarjapur police station and Jeevan Bheema Nagar police station on Monday morning. Abhimanyu Singh, a 23 year-old from Bihar who works as a construction labourer in Sarjapur in the city says, â€śWe waited for a few hours this morning before the police dispersed us without information on when we will get to leave.â€ť
Since Thursday, 23 trains have left Bengaluru for states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh transporting 1200 workers on board each train. On Monday, this number was revised to 1500 but the number of workers looking to leave the city is around one lakh, and many have already set out on foot, unwilling to wait any longer.
On Monday, hundreds of workers were seen walking on National Highway 44 leading out of Bengaluru towards Andhra Pradesh. â€śMy company will not pay me until work resumes and I donâ€™t have the money to arrange for food and water here,â€ť says Raju from Jharkhand who works at a hotel in Murugeshpalya in Bengaluru.
Unwilling to live on the kindness of strangers, workers like Raju are increasingly looking to reach home, sometimes resorting to desperate measures. â€śWe might get a lift on the way. I have heard of people who have managed to go home that way,â€ť adds Raju.