Govt in a flickering tubelight mode: Even Station Masters have no clue about trains

Not just migrant workers, even Station Masters have no clue about the timing of special trains after 47 days of the lockdown

Photo courtesy- social media
Photo courtesy- social media

Nalini Ranjan Mohanty

Mr prime Minister, why is our government in a perennially flickering tubelight mode with regard to the migrant crisis?

On Saturday we saw thousands of migrant workers clashing with police on the streets of Surat when they failed to board the trains that would ferry them home.

What was the explanation of the authorities? That these migrants had turned up on hearsay; they did not have correct information about the train movement. Pray, who has the correct information? Has the government publicized the routes and the timings of the various special trains to carry the migrants to their home state? How has the government communicated to the migrant workers the schedule of the trains?

Nobody has a clue. We are now told that the Railways will advertise the schedule in advance to avoid the chaos!

It has been like this right from the beginning when our Prime Minister announced a three-week complete lockdown on March 24 at 8 pm with just four hours’ notice. Everywhere in the world, be it US, UK, France or Spain or any other country (including even a totalitarian country like China), people were given advance notice of at least three to seven days before the stay-at-home orders were enforced. That prevented the chaos that we saw on the streets of India.

Our Prime Minister somehow forgot the existence of several million-strong migrant workers when he announced the lockdown. A couple of days later, when hundreds of thousands of workers set out on the street to trek several hundred, in some cases more than a thousand, kilometers to their native villages, the government began insisting that they must stay where they were; but the government did not provide for their boarding and lodging; it left them to the mercy of the employers. Their employers, themselves bleeding from the shutdown, pushed these migrants to the mercy of God.

It speaks of the threshold of tolerance of the poor that large-scale riots did not break out on the streets of the metropolises where hundreds of thousands of these daily wagers were stuck, with women and children, waiting for the government to rescue them.

Countries which are much poorer than India (after all, we proudly thump our chest that we are the fifth largest economy in the world) have reached out to these vulnerable sections proactively to help them tide over the COVID crisis.

But while other governments have been proactive, our government has been in a reactive mode. When the national and the international media went to town showing the images of hundreds of thousands of desperate men, women and children walking day and night to reach their home, our government woke up to the need of providing long distance trains to ferry them.

But as the tragedy of Aurangabad and the mayhem on the streets of Surat and other places showed, even the railway station masters have no clue about the schedule of trains.

We watched yesterday some migrant workers telling TV reporters that their desperate queries about the trains to their states with officials at various railway stations were met with just one response: We Have No Information. Many hapless migrant workers are lurching from one station to another looking for a train to carry them home. Now, after several tragedies unfolding, the government has woken up to the need of properly publicizing the schedule of the movement of trains.

Mr Prime Minister, how long will your government go on in this reactive, tubelight mode?

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