COIMBATORE: For 250 Tamilians, mostly pilgrims, stranded in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh, help came from an unexpected quarter. When A Manikandan, a 2017-batch IAS officer from Neyveli in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu and Sub-Collector of Varanasi, got to know about them, he obtained permission from the nodal officers of the State governments and arranged seven buses in the past 45 days to ensure their safe return.
Speaking to TNIE, Manikandan said that a group of 22 people was sent to Puducherry on May 5. "Currently, 80 Tamilians are stranded in Varanasi. They have all registered their names in the State government's portal (www.nonresidenttamil.org) expressing their interest in returning home. Besides, the Varanasi district administration is closely working with the Railway Department to book seats for these people. If people could pool money to return Tamil Nadu, they shall be arranged buses. Otherwise, they have to wait until train service is arranged," he said.
Recently, a few persons, who returned Tamil Nadu from Varanasi, reportedly showed COVID-19 symptoms. About this, Manikandan said that all of them were allowed to travel only after they tested negative for COVID-19. "In buses too, seating arrangements were made as per the social distancing norms," he assured.
In the initial phase of the lockdown, pilgrims from Tamil Nadu had issues in finding south Indian meals in Varanasi, Manikandan said, adding,"As instructed by Varanasi Collector Kaushal Raj Sharma, they were all accommodated in mutts."
Registration made easier
By circulating a message in WhatsApp, two Tamilians -- P Thirunarayanan and S Mahalaxmi Tiwari -- in Varanasi volunteered to help stranded people with the registration process.
Speaking to TNIE, Thirunarayanan (26), a PhD scholar in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) said, "When we got to know about the plight of stranded Tamilians, we circulated a WhatsApp message asking them to reach out to us for any help with registration in the online portal."
Mahalaxmi Tiwari, who is working as an assistant professor with a law school in Chennai, had gone to Varanasi before the lockdown to deliver a guest lecture at BHU.
"After knowing about Thirunarayanan's kind gesture, I also volunteered to help the people complete the registration. We informed Sub-Collector Manikandan after completing the registration process."