BENGALURU: The first incoming passenger train to Karnataka in 51 days turned out to be a nightmare for passengers, cops as well as state and railway officials. A good chunk of the 681 passengers who alighted at Platform One of the station after the New Delhi-KSR Bengaluru Superfast Express Special chugged in at 7.16 am were still at the railway station seven hours later refusing to budge as they do not want to be quarantined at hotels or state-run institutions.
The chief grouse of these 200-odd passengers is that they were not intimated about the mandatory 14-day quarantine at places proposed by the state when they booked their tickets.
"It was only when they were on board the train and waiting to reach home that they got a call or message from the Karnataka government that quarantining was mandatory. We are okay with home quarantining," said many passengers. The slogan, "No to quarantine", was loudly raised at frequent intervals by the passengers, seated in the waiting hall and its surrounding areas of Platform One.
While half the number of passengers realised it was mandatory and left by nearly 20 buses to destinations across the city, the remaining chose to protest and stay put at the station.
Chief Public Relations Officer, SWR, E Vijaya explained that the IRCTC website from which tickets can be booked had this message on its homepage - 'Before booking tickets, it is being informed that the travelling passengers will have to adhere to the health protocol of the destination State/UT'.
"Only if you click OK to this can you proceed with the booking," she said. Karnataka has a 14-day quarantine period mandatory for all air and train passengers entering the city.
However, it appears that most passengers had not given a second thought to it before booking the ticket.
Ganesh Subramanian, Vice President, Aptech Limited, said, "My main grouse was the misinformation. Had I known in advance, I would never have boarded the train. I came from Nainital where I was staying to New Delhi to board this train. I was anyway planning to self-quarantine myself at my farm house in Kanakapura Road as I have a five-year-old kid and did not want him to be exposed to any risk. But, staying at some unknown hotel was not something I expected."
A passenger who arrived from Delhi to Bengaluru refuses to budge from the railway station to be quarantined in government institutions. Many have refused to be quarantined and are demanding to let them get back home.— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) May 14, 2020
Express Video | @MeghanaSastry @XpressBengaluru pic.twitter.com/lAu2aDQrXD
Dhanapal Ram, who came rushing to the city to take up his new role as Assistant Manager, Logistics, in a private firm, said, "The whole idea of reaching Bengaluru in a hurry was to join my new job. I would have waited for a flight trip if I had known about the mandatory institutional quarantining."
A man who requested anonymity said, "In simple words, we feel we are being taken hostage by the state. They are not even giving us a choice of the hotels to stay. Wherever, the BBMP tells us to go, we are supposed to go. Paying up Rs 1,500 per day for two weeks is an exorbitant sum. Why should I do it when I have my house here in the city."
BBMP and railway officials had a tough time pacifying the crowd. Top cops in the city too landed up. Inspector General of Police, Railways, D Roopa, reached the station by afternoon and rushed to pacify the protesters.