Stale Food, No Drinking Water: Migrants are on Trains from Hell


Stale Food, No Drinking Water: Migrants are on Trains from Hell

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It took more than a month for the Centre to pay heed to the pleas of millions of migrant workers stranded across the country and arrange for trains to ferry them back home. You’d think the worst is over for India’s poorest of the poor. But many of these jobless workers were charged a fare for their train journeys and even those were far from smooth.

On Wednesday, around 1,00 migrants travelled 600-kilometres from Punjab’s Ludhiana to Bareilly. These workers were not charged for tickets, but they had to endure the 11-hour journey on the Shramik Express without food or water, reported The Print. Instead a message from the Ludhiana District Magistrate was sent out to the workers a day before the journey, asking them to arrange for their own provisions.

“There were no shops open, how can we arrange it [food] all for our family,” 28-year-old Nooni Ram, who runs a small eatery in Ludhiana and was on his way to Aonla town in Bareilly district told The Print.

The joy of returning to their families was overshadowed by other worries for 1200 workers who boarded a train to Bihar from Kalyan’s Maharashtra. Some had to pay for their bus fare to the railway station and then were charged Rs 700 for the train ticket. They were given food only once on the journey and that too was not sufficient to feed all. They drank water from the toilets, India Today reported.

And in yet another train carrying migrant workers to Bihar, a fight broke over food packets. “That whole compartment has received food. We have not received any food, people are hungry here,” one worker said.

Desperation and hunger made the travellers forget all about social distancing and safety.

On trains that served food, the situation was equally worrisome. The labourers who were travelling to Danapur in Bihar from Kerala’s Ernakulam on May 4 were allegedly served stale food.

The train was passing Asansol Railway Station, West Bengal when the migrant workers were served with cooked meals and water. However, in a video posted online, the workers can be seen throwing the food off the train.

“Continue discharging your duty like this while we die for food,” a worker can be heard yelling in the video at the policemen stationed at the platform. There were also a few complaints of a foul smell coming from the distributed food, The Quint reported.

According to the Eastern Railways Public Relations Officer Ekalabya Chakraborty, the food was arranged by IRCTC. “In some coaches, it was reported that the food was not up to the mark,” he said, confirming that there were indeed problems with the food. Quoting “paucity of time” for the team’s “mishap”, Officer Chakraborty stated that the situation was salvaged by arranging for freshly cooked food at the next station.

The nightmare continues for India’s marginalised population. One can only pray it ends soon.