COVID-19 lockdown: Over 1,000 migrants from Kerala head home on special train

COVID-19 lockdown: Over 1,000 migrants from Kerala head home on special train
Migrant labourers wave towards Kerala government officials as the train leaves. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

A special train carrying migrant labourers from Kerala, bound for Bhubaneswar in Odisha, left from the Aluva railway station in Ernakulam district on Friday.

More than 1,000 migrant workers stuck in Kerala following the imposition of the lockdown are leaving for home on the first special train from the state.

If all goes well, more trains will be operated in the coming days, Home Secretary Vishwas Mehta said.

"All those who are going will have to pay the base fare. Tomorrow we are planning more trains. These are all non-stop trains. We alone cannot do this, as partnering states to which these people are going also have to agree", said Mehta.

KSRTC buses were arranged to carry the workers to the Aluva station.

The train was scheduled to leave at 6pm, but owing to delay in the registration process, it was postponed for a few hours.

"I have been here for the past eight years, but now we are all returning to our home-town. Along with me is my two kids and my wife... We are scared of coronavirus. We are thankful to all who have made this happen," said an Odisha native waiting in the queue.

"We never thought our return would happen so quickly. We are happy to go back," said another youth.

Trains will also depart from big cities like Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.

COVID-19 lockdown: Over 1,000 migrants from Kerala head home on special train

The people leaving on Friday belonged to the poorest parts in Odisha, a districtwise breakup of the people returning are:

Kandhamal (359), Kendrapara (275), Ganjam (130), Bhadrak (92), Keonjhar (87), Jajpur (40), Balasore (20), Rayagada (18), Puri (17), Cuttack (16), Nayagarh (10), Jagatsinghapur (8), Boudh (6), Khordha (5), Mayurbhanj (3), Dhenkanal (2)

Ernakulam district, being the commercial capital of the state, has the highest number of migrant labourers.

The police will be transporting labourers from the various camps in the city to these stations.

Kerala is home to nearly 35 lakh migrant workers, according to a 2018 report by the state government. Another study - by Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation - found that the number increases by 2.35 lakh every year.

Kerala witnessed protests by inter-state migrant labourers after lockdown mostly seeking transportation to go their native places.

On April 10, migrant labourers had hit the streets at Paippad village in Kottayam district, urging the government to arrange vehicles for them to return home.

On Thursday, a group of migrant labourers in Malappuram district took to the streets demanding transportation to go home.

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