Migrants in Bandra: Thousands of migrant workers gathered outside the Bandra Terminus railway station in Mumbai to board a Bihar-bound Shramik Special train.
Migrant workers: A series of events over the past few days have shown how migrants, bearing the most severe brunt of the coronavirus crisis, may have fallen prey to rumours leading to scenes of chaos in India’s most densely populous cities. Desperate to return home, visuals of migrants exploring all possibilities to make way to their native places have dominated news for sometime now. While a few have been lucky to catch special trains being run by the government, those who remain waiting for their pass home continue to be in huge numbers.
On Tuesday, thousands of migrant workers gathered outside the Bandra Terminus railway station in Mumbai to board a Bihar-bound Shramik Special train, leading to chaos in the area for some time. According to police, it was a result of a rumour that was spread among the migrants. Police said around 4,000 migrants, all hailing from Bhar, gathered here to board trains after they were informed that two instead of one Bihar-bound trains will leave from the Bandra station.
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However, police denied communicating any such information to the migrants. Contradicting the police, migrants claimed that they received calls from police that trains will run from today.
The crowd started gathering on an approach road to Bandra Terminus early morning and within an hour, there were nearly 4,000 people on the road. This made it evident that police and railway administration were clueless that a huge crowd was coming to the station. As soon as police learned about the news, they rushed to the station and made announcements to inform migrants that no train is scheduled to depart from the station.
“We request you not to gather here. Don’t gather here unnecessarily. Don’t wait here. You will be informed well in advance if there is a train,” a police officer was seen making announcements on loudspeaker as he was seated inside his vehicle.
According to police, a Purnia-bound train was scheduled to leave from Bandra railway station on Tuesday and 1,700 people had done registration. The train departed as per the schedule with already registered passengers. But migrants were not willing to return even after announcements were made and claimed they are informed that one more train will leave in the evening.
Many said that they had submitted forms 15-20 days ago to secure their pass in Shramik Special trains. “I received a call, but didn’t receive message,” a migrant said. “We were informed that Bihar-boun trains will leave from here. We received calls four days ago from police. We had submitted our forms,” another migrant said.
“We were informed on call. No token was provided to us,” another migrant said.
A few said that the police called them an hour ago to inform that “your ticket is confirmed”. “I asked him to give me the ticket or coupon. I repeatedly asked him to give me the token but he didn’t give me the token. When we reached here (Bandra station), the police asked us to show the token and beat us,” another migrant said. A few even said that the police were collecting money and giving them berths.
As the situation was worsening, police had to resort to mild lathicharge to disperse the crowd. The station premises and areas outside the station were vacated after four hours. Police informed that the next Bihar-bound Shramik Special train will leave from Mumbai on May 22 and 23. As per the rule, registration of passengers will be done and tokens will be issued to them.
Police said a probe has been launched to ascertain the source of the rumour.
“A Bihar-bound train was to leave from here today. We had called passengers accordingly. They had come here to board the train. Unfortunately, along with them people from the neighbouring areas like Wadala, Sion, Saki Naka also gathered here. But we sent them back. Later, rumours were spread that one more train will leave from Bandra in the evening. People gathered here because of this rumour,” Manjunath Shinde, DCP, said.
“We didn’t communicate with anyone via SMS. We communicated to those boarding the scheduled train only. We are investigating from where this rumour started,” Shinde added.
Similar were the scenes in Delhi where thousands of migrant workers including women and children gathered at the Ghazipur border. Migrants said that they were informed that buses will leave from the border. Migrants from Jahangir Puri and Badli walked to reach here, expecting to catch buses for Azamgarh, Badaun, Ambedkar Nagar and Siddharthnagar in Uttar Pradesh.
The situation worsened a few hours later after Bihar migrants started gathering at the border, expecting to catch buses to their native cities.
Police faced a tough time trying to control the situation. Interestingly, Congress Sewa Dal activitists were already present at the border since morning as the party was awaiting a clearance from the Yogi Adityanth government to ply 1000 buses announced by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to ferry migrants back home.
Migrants said that they received information that buses are leaving from the Ghazipur border. “We were informed that buses are running from the border,” a lady migrant said. “We have been waiting here since 6 am. We walked all night to reach here. The Delhi government is not willing to make arrangements for us. We want to go to Bihar. Make arrangements for here to stay, provide food. We will stay here,” another lady migrant said.
Police later arranged food and water for the migrants, but they were so large that officials couldn’t cater all. Later, the Delhi government arranged buses and shifted them to shelter homes. But many of them were not ready to go to shelter homes and were expecting the government to send them back home in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
“I am coming from Shalimar and I have to go to Azamgarh in UP. We were informed that buses are running and therefore we came here,” a migrant lady said.