Patna: Dhirendar Kumar, a migrant worker, is stuck in his hometown along with his wife and two children, as the train reservation remains unavailable this week.
Kumar, like thousands of migrant workers, was happy when he reached his native village in Arwal district last week to join his family, relatives and villagers to celebrate the four-day long Chhath that concluded on Sunday. But he learnt on Monday that there is no possibility of getting a ‘confirmed’ reservation this week, and perhaps next week as well—as he was told by a railway official.
“We have to return soon to go back to work, but there is no berth available in any of the trains. We will be forced to board the train without reservation and we will have to travel for hours, sitting near the toilet in the sleeper bogie,” he told NewsClick. Kumar works in a cement factory in Gujarat’s Kutch region.
He added that he was lucky to have one ‘confirmed’ reservation while travelling from Surat to Patna ahead of the Chhath. “It was very difficult with only one birth. But we managed somehow. I slept on the floor near the berth, as my wife and children occupied the berth. The train was extremely crowded though; it was impossible to visit even the toilet, as even the toilet space was occupied by migrant workers. I witnessed it myself,” said Kumar.
Another migrant worker, Kamlesh Rai, said that even ‘waiting’ booking is not available for most of the long route trains. “The officials at the reservation counter informed me that there is no room in several trains due to long waiting list.”
Kamlesh, who works in an iron factory in Punjab, told NewsClick that contrary to the claim of “special trains for Chhath and additional bogies in express trains”, there is no space in most of the trains going towards Delhi and Punjab. “We cannot afford to take a flight, as the airfare from Patna to Delhi is starting from Rs 11,000.”
He added that most of the Bihar's railway stations are witnessing a heavy rush of passengers—of mostly migrant workers returning to their jobs in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Himachal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala. Reports said that hundreds of migrant workers have been waiting at various railway stations across Bihar to board long-distance trains since Sunday night.
A railway official admitted that there is no room in Delhi-bound trains like Sampurna Kranti, Magadh Express and Shramjeevi Express. “For the next 10 days, waiting lists of these trains have crossed 300.”
However, chief public relations officer of East Central Railways, Rajesh Kumar, said that the trains either starting from Bihar or passing through the state are fully packed to the capacity. He claimed, “Railways is running special trains, which is providing big relief to those returning to work after Chhath.”
Taking advantage of helpless migrant workers, dozens of brokers are freely roaming at Patna railway station, promising reservation for an extra fee of Rs 2,000 to 2,500 for sleeper class.
As per unofficial figures, four million migrant workers from across India came back to the state last week to celebrate Chhath. Some had arrived before Diwali.
There is rush also at the Patna airport, as professionals and skilled migrant workers are in a hurry to return to their workplaces in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru. “Chhath has hiked the airfare to three times more,” said an official at the airport.