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Their travel companion: Paranoia

Eerie silence and tired faces have replaced the joy of summer travel this year.

Published: 16th May 2020 05:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2020 05:57 AM   |  A+A-

Migrant labourers from UP on NH-16 on the outskirts of Chennai | DEBADATTA MALLICK

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Clad in masks and gloves, hundreds gathered at the Central station on Friday to take the special train to Delhi. Central station is nothing like the way it used to be during the holiday season. Eerie silence and tired faces have replaced the joy of summer travel this year. People kept a safe distance from each other, but only till the point where thermal screening is done.

“People went out of control as soon as they entered the station premises,” says Swathi, one of the commuters. Swathi is returning to Delhi for work. “It is even worse inside the train. All seats, including the middle ones, have been occupied. All of us are praying we get back safe.” The passengers, literally, are paying a high price to go back home.

“Apart from the overpriced ticket, the cost of food and water have gone up too,” says Bharadwaj, another passenger. “A water bottle now costs Rs 20 as against Rs 15 earlier. One box of vegetable biryani is being sold for Rs 130, double the earlier price. Even a tea is now priced at Rs 20,” says Bharadwaj. “The worst part, dustbins here look like they have not been cleared.”   

Sanitiser bottles placed inside washrooms got empty within a couple of hours. By evening, bins were overflowing with discarded masks and gloves. Washrooms have not been cleaned due to skeletal staffing. “This is the time to be maintaining hygiene, and we are failing terribly,” a commuter told Express.

Left without many options, the passengers had to come up with their own hacks. Some decided not to use the toilet on the train — bladder control for as long as possible. Some just stayed up in their berths, refusing to step down. Some decided to keep their mask on even while sleeping. Officials concerned, when contacted, responded with a staple statement: “We shall ensure better facilities next time.”

For many on that train, destination Delhi meant relief. It meant getting back to the safety of their home, big or small, in red zone or green. For a few others, Delhi was just a transit point, and the journey had to continue. “I need to get to Kanpur, but there is no train going there,” says Akash Gupta. “I plan to get down at Jhansi and figure out a way to get home. I have no money left with me to continue staying in Chennai. I have no option but to leave.” In the long, arduous journey, most of them had a common companion — fear.

Long march from Tiruchy to up
Tiruchy: Fearing that transport services may be delayed, some migrant workers have started walking from Tiruchy to their native States thousands of kilometres away. However, the Tiruchy district administration said the railways would arrange special trains within a week or so. Nearly 4,500 labourers in and around Tiruchy have shown willingness to return to their homes. SB Ramchand, migrant labourer said, “Of the 80 people here, 36 have started walking to their homes in Uttar Pradesh. We are going back as we have neither earnings nor money to pay rent.”

Stranded NRIs seek connecting flights
Coimbatore: The clamour for resuming domestic air connectivity has been getting louder with each passing day on social media. As Phase 2 of ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ to carry Indians from other countries is slated to commence from May 19, NRIs have urged the Ministry of Civil Aviation to resume connecting flights to New Delhi, from south India. A number of NRIs working in the USA, currently stranded in different parts of Tamil Nadu, said they booked tickets to the US from New Delhi. However, reaching New Delhi may be a uphill task due to a lack of air connectivity and other restrictions.

More from Tamil Nadu.

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