A visit to the central railway station in Chennai has become a routine for stranded guest workers like S Sethi from Odisha who are clueless about the process to return home by the Shramik specials, yet hopeful their day will come.
Despite operation of a number of Shramik specials that have ferried thousands of such workers to various states from Tamil Nadu, several others, left jobless due to COVID-19 lockdown and eager to return home, have been visiting the station as they are not aware of the procedure for getting selected for the train journey.
"We have no money and nothing to eat. We want to go home. We hope the government will come to our rescue and help us reach home soon," Sethi told PTI outside the Puratchi Thalaivar Dr MGR Central Railway Station in Chennai, summing up his precarious position.
Besides him, over 30 others from his home state, mostly construction workers scattered at nearby Semmancherry and Sriperumbudur, have come together and been trying to board a train back home.
The motley group also includes about eight women and three children and have been hanging around the station for the past few days.
Another native of Odisha, Chittaranjan, who is also part of the group, said he was eager to return home but a gap in communication was proving to be a hurdle.
"I had even approached the local police for help. They could not respond as they could not understand Hindi," he claimed.
"I am even willing to arrange for Rs 1,000 towards the cost of train ticket to return home, if the officials facilitate my return," Chittaranjan added.
"Jo bhi tha, sab khatam ho gaya hai. Ab hum ghar jana hai, (whatever money we had has been exhausted. Now we want to go home) said Rabi Behera, also from Odisha.
Six migrant workers from West Bengal working in a construction company in Chennai, are also making daily trips to the railway station here hoping to catch a train.
They visit the "Amma Canteen" near the station for free breakfast and dinner while spending the nights in the by-lanes in areas a short distance away.
According to Wasim from West Bengal, they had even approached the police and provided their details, including identity proof.
"Our attempts to board the special train have failed," he said.
The Southern Railway has been operating a number of Shramik Express specials to cater to stranded guest workers who want to reach their destinations in Odisha and Jharkhand. This is done at the request of the state government who select the passengers based on registration done through district administrations.