Workers from other dists hitch rides, walk to Jalandhar

Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 23

A cardboard factory worker from Faridkot (a native of Sipol in Bihar) came to the city in an auto-rickshaw to catch a train to Bihar, an Amritsar man walked all the way with fellow labourers, nine vegetable vendors from Hoshiarpur came walking and hitching rides; and Basant Kumar from Kapurthala went walking to the Sultanpur bus stand from his farm with wife and two children and caught a bus to Jalandhar. They all have a common pursuit — catching their train to go home.

Penniless, laid off jobs they have been pursuing for years, men, women and children in hundreds are taking huge risks to reach Jalandhar to catch Shramik Special trains. While the 68th Shramik Special chugged out of the city today, labourers are taking uncommon pain to reach Jalandhar as the news had reached them that they will find a train here.

The Tribune team has met labourers from Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Faridkot and Hoshiarpur, who all got registered in their districts. But with relatives staying away with many of them having medical emergencies back home, they lost hope and came walking to Jalandhar. Right from 3 am, huge queues were witnessed outside screening centres in the city for those who were waiting for a train.

While over one lakh people registered from the district, hundreds of labourers have come from other districts, turning it into a huge migrant hub. Bypasses are flooded with migrants with each span of the bridge having over 100 migrant camping migrants.

A cardboard factory worker from Faridkot says he caught an tempo to Jalandhar to catch the train but was chased away from the screening centre by the police. When asked why Jalandhar? He replied: "I came day before yesterday. There was no train from Faridkot. I got registered but got a message – be patient."

He said: “They said I’d get a train from Kotkapura or Faridkot but the call never came. Somebody told us there is a train from Jalandhar, hence, three of us came in a tempo. I had also queued for the train, at the screening centre, but was driven out of the line.”

Nine vendors from Hoshiarpur, all vegetable sellers working for years, have found themselves without work. They came to Jalandhar days ago, walking and hitching rides. Vinayak Shah (42), Suresh Shah and Rajesh (20), all lost their means of subsistence in Hoshiarpur ever since the lockdown. They said they tried thrice to get curfew passes for vegetables back at Hoshiarpur but failed to get them.

Rajesh, who hails from Saharsa, is worried for his mother’s health who is waiting for a surgery. He came from Hoshiarpur and is in a hurry to reach home. Another man was seen chasing bystanders at the highway questioning everyone "UP ka train milega?

Ganpat walked from the Sultanpur Anaaj Mandi to the local bus stand with his wife and two little children to catch a bus to Jalandhar. He said: “Makaan malik ne ghar se nikal diya. Taala laga diya. Kahaa jayein. Kaise jayein?”

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