Shramik Specials: Train to hell and back

Migrant train Shramik Special
A common refrain of migrant workers from across the country is that boarding the special Shramik train has become akin to winning a lottery. | PTI Photo

At the Thiruvananthapuram Central station, Gopal Mandal, 33, runs out of patience as he awaits to board the Shramik Special train to West Bengal. Around 8 pm on May 26, as the train approaches the platform, Mandal cranes his neck to get a better look, his face mask soaked with sweat, slips below his nose. Once seated inside the train, the series of events that unfolded in the past two months flash in front of Mandal’s eyes.

Following the countrywide lockdown announced in March, Mandal, a mason, found himself stuck with nine others from Bengal for more than two months at government camps in Thiruvananthapuram, looking for ways to return home. But nothing worked in their favour until May 26 — the day of their departure that followed a series of unimaginable chaotic events.

Similar, if not more, harrowing tales of wait emerged from across states, as migrant workers, left jobless and hungry by the lockdown, struggled to return home, before finally boarding a train home where more pain and hunger awaited them.

The chaos

To continue reading this article...

You have to be a Premium Subscriber

Start your subscription with a free trial

Enjoy unlimited Eighth column, archives and games on and many more features.
You will also be supporting ethical and unbiased journalism.
plans start from Rs. 99