Whether we survive or die, it is upon god, but we will walk all the way home to Madhya Pradesh, said Ghanshyam, a resident of Damoh, who has started walking from New Delhi along with a group of 50 people. They have already exhausted all their money and food as the nation-wide lockdown due to the unprecedented pandemic outbreak inches towards Day 50.
Their journey on foot started on Tuesday from the national capital as they were unable to afford the rail tickets for the special air conditioned trains announced by the Railway Ministry.
Ghanshyam, who is in his late 40s, said that we don't have a smartphone and we don't know how to use internet. "How could the government think that we will be able to book train tickets?" he said, adding "even the trains being run are the AC trains which are way beyond our means. We can't afford these.
"We have no other option left. So we have decided to walk to our home district," he added.
Damoh is approximately 750 km from New Delhi. The group of 50 people, including seven to eight children between the age group of two to four years and elders carrying their luggages on their heads were intercepted by the IANS correspondent near New Delhi-Agra Expressway in Uttar Pradesh's Noida.
"We are walking to Madhya Pradesh on foot as we don't have money," said Rakesh a resident of Panna district. He said, he used to work as a mason in Delhi. But after the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 23, he didn't get a single day's work.
Rakesh, in his late 50s, said that they used to get food from a nearby community kitchen. "But now they have also closed their kitchen three days ago. As we don't have the money to buy the ration the only option left for us is to return to our homes," he said.
When asked, how much time it would take to reach their homes, he said, "We will reach home in 15 to 20 days."
"What should we do? Should we stay hungry, unfed, uncared for? Why?" said Poona, who is also walking along with her husband and a two-year-old daughter.
Lamenting the government's move for starting off with the AC trains, she said that the fare of the special trains are very high.
"The plight we are in at the moment there is no way we can arrange for that kind of money for the tickets for these trains. So we will walk home," said Poona in her early 30s, who was in the city with her husband in search of a better life, a dream thta now appears bleak.
On Sunday, the national transporter announced to gradually resume the train services with 15 pair AC trains equivalent to Rajdhani Express from New Delhi.
According to railway officials these trains in the initial phase will run as special AC trains from New Delhi Station to Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi.
All the coaches will be AC with limited stoppage and the fare will be equivalent to Rajdhani Express train. The railways also said that passengers with valid confirmed tickets will be allowed to enter the railway stations and it will be mandatory for the passengers to wear face cover and undergo screening at departure and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board the train.
The Indian Railways, which has in an unprecedented move suspended the passenger, mail and express trains from March 25 amid the nationwide lockdown has started to run the Shramik Special train from May 1 to transport the stranded migrant workers, students, pilgrims and tourists.
Till Monday, the national transporter has operated 513 Shramik Special trains and transported over 6 lakh people across several states.